It remains to be seen if Saturday’s contest will go down as the final meeting in College Park for the often one-sided but always intense rivalry between Maryland and Duke. But if it was, the Terrapins treated their home crowd to quite the finale.
As No. 2 Duke’s desperation effort missed the mark, Maryland’s students stormed the court. Forget the Terps’ 12 losses in their past 13 meetings with the Blue Devils — including six straight setbacks. What may be the last laugh at Comcast Center belonged to the Maryland faithful.
“We never quit,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We never had a doubt we were going to win the game.”
On a night the Terps pulled out an 83-81 win despite a season-high 26 turnovers, it only seemed fitting that guard Seth Allen — who contributed eight of them — hit the winning free throws with two seconds remaining.
Instead, Allen improvised. When the lane opened, he atoned for his earlier giveaways by attacking the basket and drawing a foul on Quinn Cook.
“That’s a big test of your maturity, just doing the next play,” said Allen, who finished with 16 points. “I just tried to have amnesia and keep playing.”
Although he didn’t get the final shot as planned, Len did lead the Terps (18-7, 6-6 ACC) with 19 points while hitting 6 of 8 from the field. Three weeks after Mason Plumlee outscored the sophomore 19-8 in an 84-64 triumph for Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Len helped limit his fellow NBA lottery prospect to four points.
And Len’s nine rebounds also paced a dominating performance on the glass for the Terps, whose 40 boards doubled up on the Blue Devils.
“I watched a lot of film this past week,” Len said. “I didn’t play well at their place, so it was a huge challenge for me.”
In the first half, Duke (22-3, 9-3) rode the hot shooting of guard Seth Curry (25 points), who numbed Maryland’s electric atmosphere with a 6-for-6 start. When a Plumlee alley-oop capped an 11-2 run, Duke found itself in front 25-20.
But Nick Faust’s 3-pointer in transition gave Maryland a 35-34 halftime lead, and the margin grew to 53-43 early in the second.
Maryland’s sloppiness with the ball, however, saw that advantage quickly get cut down as three turnovers in less than a minute set up an eight-point spurt for Duke.
“We had 26 turnovers and we beat them,” Allen said. “Imagine if we slimmed down the turnovers, how much of a different game it would have been.”
While Dez Wells’ free throws gave Maryland a double-digit cushion with 3:39 left, Curry made back-to-back 3-pointers to get Duke within striking distance at 80-78 in the final minute.
With Duke down three with 16 seconds left, Maryland guard-forward Jake Layman fouled Rasheed Sulaimon on a 3-point attempt. The freshman made all three from the line to tie the score at 81.
That set the stage for Allen to clinch the win and boost Maryland’s NCAA tournament hopes a week after a crippling home loss to Virginia — circumstances that had Turgeon in tears of pride during his postgame news conference.
As senior forward James Padgett said, “We can hopefully use it as a momentum builder going into the last couple games in the ACC. Everyone is excited, but we’re not content.”
Although it is conceivable Maryland could host Duke next year, during the Terps’ final ACC season before they bolt to the Big Ten, the teams are losing their automatic home-and-home series upon the entrance of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the conference.
That means it’s up to the ACC to gift the ship-jumping Terps one last home date against Duke.
“I told our players before the game there is a lot of pride in Maryland basketball,” Turgeon said. “We talked about pride and passion, and playing with those two things tonight, for us and for our fans.”
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