I don’t know what it is anymore. Maybe I am finally maturing a bit and realize life goes on if Maryland loses. Maybe I am getting a little bit too used to losing. On this night, I enjoyed this game, at least for about 36 minutes. It was intense, it was fun to watch. The excitement was evident from the very tip. Everyone was ready to play and at a very high level. It was a battle of two teams that wanted it very badly. I think the last time enjoyed a game so much that they lost was probably the 2001 ACC semis where they lost to Duke and Dixon just missed that three from inside half court at the buzzer.
It wasn’t a must win, but boy it would have been huge to pull it out. The first half Maryland totally out played Duke. The problem was Duke’s 5 made threes to Maryland’s zero. Maryland shot 53% in the half, while holding Duke to 34%, but with all those threes, but they still wound up tied at the half. Maryland did an incredible job of getting in the lane for easy baskets. Milbourne was ready to play, and quite honestly abused Singler in the first half. He also had a huge block on Zoubek in the closing seconds of the half. They played well, and if you didn’t know the score, you would have thought they were up by 6 or 8.
The second half was still just as intense and exciting, Duke just made some plays down the stretch to hold off the Terps. You kind of had to think it may not have been the Terps night when Vasquez missed both free throws early in the half, and then with just a couple of minutes gone in the half, he picked up two very quick fouls and was relegated to the bench with four total. It could have been over there, but the Terps fought as hard as I have seen them in a long time. With their leader on the bench they got tough. In fact they got very tough. Not since Kevin Barnes’ vomit inducing hit on Jahvid Best on the football field, has a Terp laid out a player like Dave Neal did to Nolan Smith on a back court pick. He set a screen as solid as you could, and Smith was down for a while. Playing 5 on 4 while Smith was down, the Terps moved the ball around to a wide open Dave Neal who drilled the open 3 to cut Duke’s lead to 1 with about 15 minutes left.
That shot along with the three that Adrian Bowie hit with the shot clock running down to give the Terps the lead at 52-49 with 11:55 left made me think they could pull it out. However, down the stretch Duke got more of the loose balls and made the plays that they had to. Jon Scheyer put the nail in the coffin with a three to put Duke up 9 and that was it.
Eric Hayes, Dave Neal, and Landon Milbourne tried to make sure they were going to stay in the game until Vasquez was summoned off the bench. It just wasn’t meant to be, but they served a message they are not going to be an easy out the rest of the way.
If they play this way the rest of the season, they might just be able to still sneak into the big dance. Sure It makes March Madness that much more fun when the Terps are in it, but just in case they don’t make it, I am going to enjoy the effort these guys play with for the remaining games, however many that may be.