Steve Blake had just had a sensational game in a shockingly easy win over top-ranked Duke when a sea of red came crashing down from the stands of Cole Field House. It was the only time Blake and his teammates were slowed as a mass of students embraced their heroes as if they had won a championship following the monumental win over the dreaded Blue Devils.
“Everybody was just jumping around and celebrating,” said Blake, after yesterday’s 87-73 blowout of Duke. “It was a great feeling.”
Blake had 13 assists, controlled the tempo and kept Duke superstar Jason Williams in check all afternoon as Maryland beat the Blue Devils at Cole for the first time in five seasons. Terps forward Chris Wilcox danced on the scorer’s table and waved a towel as the pandemonium started before being pulled down by Maryland assistant coach Dave Dickerson.
Wilcox, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, was the game’s dominant inside player, totaling a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds and limiting Duke’s explosive power forward, Mike Dunleavy. The versatile 6-foot-9 Dunleavy made just five of 14 shots and was in foul trouble all afternoon before fouling out with 1:33 remaining.
The Terps can now stake a claim as the nation’s No.1 team after improving to 21-3 and 11-1 in the ACC for the first time. Maryland will find out today if it jumps over Duke and No.2 Kansas to become the top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll for the first time in its illustrious history. Maryland was ranked No.2 and Kansas No.1 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll released last night.
“It’s a great win for the program and the school,” said Maryland’s Juan Dixon, after the Terps won their eighth straight by snapping Duke’s 11-game winning streak. “They are the No.1 team in the country. I guess some Duke fan sent us some flowers with a little sympathy card, saying ‘Here’s a card. Good luck, but you are going to lose.’ That’s basically what it said. We are going to send it back.”
The Terps took a half-game lead over Duke (23-2, 11-2) and are in position to win the ACC regular season outright for the first time since 1980. Maryland lost to Duke last season in the ACC tournament and the Final Four and fell 99-78 in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan.17.
The Terps held the Blue Devils in check defensively while keeping up their high-powered, up-tempo attack. Maryland center Lonny Baxter had 11 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to complement Wilcox on the inside. Dixon finished with 17 points, but started slowly with only four points in the first half. It didn’t matter as Maryland’s “support players” played starring roles as the Terps led 38-29 at the break.
Byron Mouton added 15 for the Terps, while Carlos Boozer led Duke with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Maryland altered its defense from the first time the two teams played this season as perimeter defenders stayed in front of Williams and Dunleavy rather than play extremely tight and dare the Blue Devils to drive. The results were staggering as Duke shot 36 percent and made just seven of 33 3-pointers. Williams missed several open shots, but was hounded all afternoon by Blake and his help defense. The Blue Devils All-American had 17 points on 6-for-22 shooting and missed 10 of 12 3-pointers.
“It was mostly due to their defense,” said Williams, who had six of a very uncharacteristic 17 turnovers for Duke. “They played great defense and pressured a lot of shots, and Lonny Baxter did a great job inside of blocking shots and helping out.”
Dunleavy finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but made just three of 10 3-pointers. Wilcox did an excellent job of harassing the versatile star, who put away the Terps with 19 second-half points in last month’s win at Durham.
“We gambled a little bit,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who now has a 5-25 record against Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. “We took away their dribble penetration. They didn’t shoot particularly good, but we took away their dribble penetration.”
The play that set the tone came at the end of the first half. Duke appeared to have shaken off a slow start with a 9-2 run. A fastbreak layup by Williams cut Maryland’s lead to 34-29 with just under a minute to play. A runner by Blake widened the lead to seven, and Duke was holding the ball for one shot.
Krzyzewski was shouting directions to Williams, who was standing just inside halfcourt and looking at his coach. Williams looked back a second time and Blake immediately struck, stealing the ball and racing in for a layup with two seconds left to give Maryland a 38-29 lead at the break.