- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

Gary Williams' hair was tussled, his tie crooked and his suit drenched. Even by his sweaty standards, the Maryland Terrapins' 75-70 loss to Duke on Wednesday night was draining.
Yet the Terrapins coach seemed at peace. The No.13 Terps (16-7, 8-4) delivered their second straight strong outing against a top-10 team and are just percentage points off the ACC lead with four games remaining.
The Terps have awakened for a late-season run after beating No.10 Wake Forest 90-67 on Monday. The experience of four senior starters was evident when Maryland turned a 10-point second-half deficit against No.8 Duke (18-4, 8-4) into a one-possession game at raucous Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Terps seldom seemed rattled and often counterpunched after an opposing run.
"We struggled at parts [against Duke], but I was proud how some guys went real hard to get us back in it," point guard Steve Blake said. "There's some positives in it. The effort is there. If we made a play or two down the stretch, we could have won."
The Terps could gain the ACC tournament's top seed and a high seed in the NCAA tournament next month if they sweep visiting North Carolina (14-11, 4-7) and Clemson (14-8. 4-7) during the next week before finishing at N.C. State (14-8. 7-4) and Virginia (14-10, 5-7). Maryland already has beaten the first three and blew a 12-point late lead against Virginia.
"Look where we are," Williams said. "We have two home games coming up. We have to take advantage of that. Watch us Saturday [against North Carolina]."
Said forward Tahj Holden: "We feel we have a great chance of winning this league. Twelve [victories] might win it this year. There's a lot of parity in college basketball, and it shows up big in the ACC."
Maryland's turnaround after several weeks of lackluster play has stemmed from improved frontcourt play. Holden scored a career-high 18 points against Duke with five rebounds and three blocks. Duke blocked 13 shots, but Holden's perseverance kept Maryland alive late while creating chances for center Ryan Randle (12 points, seven rebounds).
"Tahj was great down the stretch when we needed him," Williams said. "There were big games in his career where he played at a different level."
Defenses were so dominant that both teams reaching the 70s was surprising. It was 17-17 after 10 minutes before Duke scored 10 straight. Maryland countered with a 12-1 run and took a 31-30 lead late in the first half. Neither team scored more than four unanswered points in the second half. The defenses often forced both teams to the foul line to break droughts. Maryland made 39.7 percent from the floor and Duke 41.2 percent.
"People say you went four minutes without scoring," Williams said. "There's a reason for that. You might miss some shots, but it was hard a couple times to get a shot. We were able to turn it up a notch when we were down eight, nine, 10. Our defense seemed to improve in those situations."
Said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: "It was a clean, hard game. It was as high level and classy as you get."
Duke finally abandoned its inside game that worked so well in the first half to rely on guard J.J. Redick (17 points), who ended the Blue Devils' anemic 3-for-17 long-distance shooting with three straight treys in the final seven minutes. Forward Dahntay Jones led Duke with 21 points, and forward Shelden Williams added 11 to prevent Maryland from concentrating on one facet of Duke's offense.
"Earlier in the year, we relied too much on our perimeter game and shooting jumpers," Duke guard Chris Duhon said. "Now we're getting a mix of inside and outside, and there's a better flow. Everybody feels like part of the offense."


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