- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009

DURHAM, N.C. | Adrian Bowie leaned forward in the cramped quarters of Cameron Indoor Stadium’s decrepit road team accommodations when, out of common courtesy, he asked how a visitor to Maryland’s locker room was doing.

Surely he knew the answer. Almost by definition, anyone else would be faring better than he and his teammates were after No. 2 Duke inflicted an 85-44 beatdown Saturday.

“You got that right,” Bowie said.

All setbacks sting, but there are varying degrees of pain. Some losses are routine. Others are littered with a litany of superlatives.

Saturday provided one of those history-sweeping moments, a time for dusty, musty record books to absorb an epic cleansing.

It was Maryland’s widest margin of defeat ever against an ACC opponent. The Terps scored their fewest points since the advent of the shot clock in college basketball. Maryland was dealt a 40-point loss for the first time since World War II.

And whether he was glaring at a train wreck far out of his control a dozen minutes into the game or helplessly holding a clipboard in the middle of the second half, coach Gary Williams could not escape the worst margin of defeat in his 31-year career.

The Terps (13-6, 2-3) arrived looking to join some of their predecessors in unfurling a surprising victory against the Blue Devils (18-1, 5-0). Instead, they were left to sift through the rubble after the scorching Duke’s frenetic defense inflicted.

“I’ve come in here before with teams that were underdogs and played pretty well here, and we didn’t do that today,” said Williams, whose worst previous loss was a 36-point drubbing against North Carolina in the 1993 ACC tournament. “They made us pay for it. As far as the score goes, it doesn’t bother me to lose by 40 or 20. It counts as one loss. People can say that’s terrible, but it’s getting ready for Tuesday night [that’s important].”

There’s no telling when playing for the next game began, but it surely occurred before halftime.

Maryland was out of sorts from the start, and no one other than junior forward Landon Milbourne (a game-high 19 points) could summon anything steady. Greivis Vasquez, so comfortable in Cameron’s cozy confines the past two years, shot 2-for-10 and managed four points.

Bowie and Eric Hayes combined on a 3-for-20 performance. Neither scored in the first half, and neither could prod the Terps into running any semblance of an offense.

“I think they just played a little bit harder than us tonight, and it started to get out of hand to the point where we couldn’t come back,” Milbourne said. “We just weren’t playing as hard as we usually do. We didn’t run our offense hard or play defense like we usually do.”

The ugliness unfolded quickly, even if Duke’s offense didn’t function especially well in the first half. It hardly mattered for a team in possession of a withering defense.

The Blue Devils contested nearly everything, poking, prodding and pestering any player or pass they came across. Even after Duke held its first four ACC opponents under 60 points, it was a signature performance.

“Their defense is extremely tough,” Maryland forward Dave Neal said. “They’re versatile enough where they can switch every single screen. And when you switch screens, it kind of takes you out of your offense.”

Then there’s the matter of controlling Duke’s offense when it finally works. The Blue Devils led 40-15 at halftime. By the time Gerald Henderson (17 points) finished off a finger roll after three passes on a clinical fast break less than five minutes later, it was 60-20.

The ensuing scores weren’t any healthier - 68-24, 71-29, 80-38. And the scoreboard said Maryland, not Maryland-Eastern Shore or a lesser luminary.

These were the Terps, custodians of a proud program with a national title in the rearview mirror reduced to nearly getting doubled up in what amounted to a coronation for the Blue Devils.

Duke will be No. 1 come Monday. Maryland, no doubt, will seek any sort of improvement.

After all, it can’t get much worse - right?

“That’s always back there somewhere that that can happen, and it happened today,” Williams said. “We didn’t play with the enthusiasm necessary to walk in here and play well. … It’s ‘Can you match Duke’s intensity level?’ - and we didn’t do that today. We certainly paid the price.”

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