Over the years Duke and Maryland have engaged in many classic battles on the basketball court. Duke fans, at times, have liked to give the Terrapins the “not our rival” treatment, but the fact is there really is no other term to describe the intense matchups over the last 15 years other than “rivalry.”
As the 1990s came to a close and we moved into the 21st century Duke found themselves with some new company at the top of the conference. Maryland had temporarily passed Duke’s natural rival, North Carolina, as one of the premiere ACC teams. The Terrapins solidified their place with a National Championship in 2002. During the few years that UNC were trying to reestablish themselves, Duke-Maryland was the marquee ACC matchup of the season, at least from a national perspective. The year 2001 featured four memorable games. Whether it was the “Miracle Minute,” the loss in College Park, the Nate James tip-in in the ACC Tournament, or the 22 point comeback in the Final Four, you can’t deny a rivalry was born.
Saturday’s final ACC Regular Season matchup between the two teams will be added to the list of memorable games. Duke appeared to be in control for the first half and into the second. The Blue Devils were never able to pull away, but were able to keep a fair distance until Dez Wells realized how good he was. Maryland was able to take the lead in the second half and had Duke on the ropes until a Jabari Parker highlight dunk and a defensive stand in the last 20 seconds.
It was the first game for Duke since last weekend’s blowout of Boston College, Duke looked a little rusty, shooting 33.3% from the field and hitting only 5 or their 24 three point attempts. Parker was the only dominant player, finishing with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Jefferson was effective on the glass, grabbing 12 rebounds, 5 offensive boards, and Sulaimon and Hood were able to manage double figure scoring, but Duke struggled on the offensive end of the floor for the entire game.
This was the first of four games in eight days for the Blue Devils. Duke plays Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Tuesday before the rescheduled game against North Carolina on Thursday. Duke will return home next Saturday for the rematch against undefeated Syracuse. Parker, Jefferson, and Sulaimon all played over 35 minutes against Maryland. It will be interesting to see if Krzyzewski manages their minutes more against the Yellow Jackets on Tuesday.
Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton were the starting guards for Duke, who returned Rasheed Sulaimon to the sixth man role. Cook continued to struggle. His role for the Blue Devils continues to be uncertain down the stretch, with Sulaimon seeing increased time as the point guard and Coach K opting for the defense and experience of Tyler Thornton and instant offense of Andre Dawkins. Cook’s effectiveness figures to be important if Duke has any hopes of a Final Four run.
Duke’s hopes of a Final Four and fifth National Title hinge on their ability to regain their hot shooting touch and their ability to maintain their aggressiveness in the paint. It is important for this team to remained focused, as their lack of size limits their margin for error.