Impatient offense dooms Maryland to ACC semifinal loss

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CHARLOTTESVILLE | Prudent shot selection served Maryland well in its upset at Johns Hopkins last week.

It would enjoy no such patience Friday in the ACC tournament against Duke – nor the accompanying result.

The Terrapins struggled on offense from start to finish at Klockner Stadium, dropping a 6-5 slugfest to the top-seeded Blue Devils.

Fourth-seeded Maryland (7-4) shot 5-for-31 and scored only three unassisted goals in settled situations.

“I felt we resorted to taking the first opportunity, not the best opportunity,” said coach John Tillman, whose team made six of 11 shots during one second-half stretch against Hopkins. “We’ve been at our best when we’ve been choosy with our choices, when we’ve waited for a really good shot and not the first shot. At times I think we got away from that.”

Josh Dionne scored three goals for the Blue Devils (12-3), who trailed for less than two minutes and advanced to Sunday’s conference title game.

It wasn’t a visually appealing game. Both teams were coming off emotional victories, and the Terps were held to the lowest output since a 7-5 loss to Notre Dame in the 2010 NCAA quarterfinals. The 11 goals were the fewest the teams combined for in their long-running series since a 6-4 Maryland win in 1952.

“We didn’t play our best game today,” attackman Joe Cummings said. “We can definitely learn from it.”

Ultimately, Duke was a bit more opportunistic. It scored off the opening faceoff and a turnover shortly after the draw to open the fourth quarter, and also one Dionne golfed in out of a scrum just 1.2 seconds before halftime.

“When the game’s so low-scoring and both teams are playing such great defense and are so well-coached defensively, you’ll take anything you can get,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “But you have to continue to be aggressive and play the way you play. We were trying to do that and trying to get a lead and make some plays and I thought our guys did a good job of really taking those opportunities.”

Beyond those, it was mostly even. Duke’s lead never grew beyond two goals, and Maryland closed within 6-5 when Cummings scored with 2:09 to go.

Both Drew Snider and Cummings had shots in the final 20 seconds turned away, permitting Duke to reach its fifth ACC title game in six years.

It was also the ninth straight victory for the Blue Devils, who have only lost once since suffering a 10-7 loss to Maryland on March 3.

“Close isn’t good enough, but they are the hottest team in the country,” Tillman said. “Credit to them, I don’t think Duke probably played their best game. I don’t think we played our best game. But if they’re as hot as any team in the country, we’re not too far behind.”

It will be a while before Maryland finds a similar barometer. The Terps have three regular-season games remaining, including a season-ending visit to a tricky Colgate team that upset them last year.

But Maryland’s next game against a top-10 team won’t come until next month’s NCAA tournament.

“It was obviously a rough day for us, but it’s behind us now,” long pole Jesse Bernhardt said. “We still have a game next Wednesday, the following Saturday and then we play a good Colgate team to the end the season. We can’t let this ruin the rest of the season. We have to finish out those three games and finish strong.”

Patrick Stevens

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