No. 9 Duke 66, Maryland 64
Once again, Duke found itself in a late-game tussle with
Maryland. And for the third time this season, the ninth-ranked Blue
Devils figured out a way to fight off the determined young
Jasmine Thomas scored 21 points and hit five 3-pointers to help
Duke beat Maryland 66-64 Friday in the Atlantic Coast Conference
tournament quarterfinals, sending the top seed to the semifinals
for the 16th straight year.
Joy Cheek added 14 points for the Blue Devils (25-5), including
a leaning bank shot for a 66-63 lead with 1:36 left. Bridgette
Mitchell had a pair of go-ahead free throws on the previous
possession for Duke, which narrowly avenged an overtime loss to the
Terrapins in last year’s final.
“It feels good to come in here and grind this win out and move
on,” Thomas said. “I think just like we have been doing all
season, we have to take what we didn’t do well in this game and
transfer it over into the next game. In the ACC tournament, the
teams are familiar, so it’s not really about executing and doing
the X’s and O’s.
“It’s about who wants it more. That’s what we have to prove
this year, is that we want it more.”
Duke advanced to face fourth-seeded Georgia Tech, which beat
Wake Forest in Friday’s first game at the Greensboro Coliseum.
While the Blue Devils have been atop the ACC all season and the
ninth-seeded Terrapins’ NCAA tournament hopes are in question, the
game ended up fitting right in with the other matchups between a
pair of programs that can’t get out of one another’s way. It was
the sixth time in seven seasons that Duke and Maryland met in the
ACC tournament, and the rivalry includes the Terrapins’ overtime
win against the Blue Devils in the 2006 NCAA championship game.
Maryland (19-12) had played Duke tough in the regular season,
losing by one at home in January and hanging within a point of the
Blue Devils with about 4 minutes left before falling 71-59 two
weeks ago in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
This time, both teams rallied from significant deficits – Duke
by 11 in the first half and Maryland by nine in the second – before
Jackie Nared’s running desperation heave from well beyond the arc
hit all backboard and the Terrapins couldn’t corral the rebound as
the horn sounded.
“Everybody in our locker room believed we were going to win,”
Maryland’s Lori Bjork said. “That makes it tough to take. When you
invest that much emotionally and think you’ve got it and believe
you can do it and then not be able to win, it’s frustrating.”
Lynetta Kizer scored 16 points for the Terrapins, who tied the
game with about 5 minutes left before taking a 63-62 lead on two
free throws from Bjork (14 points, four 3s) with 2:29 left.
But Mitchell was fouled on a rebound attempt on the next
possession and hit both free throws to put Duke back in front.
Then, after Diandra Tchatchouang threw the ball away looking for
Kizer in the lane, Cheek drove past Kizer and banked in a tough
leaner to put Duke ahead by three.
“The most important thing is our team and how we’re growing,”
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “To get the composure piece
and some of the critical plays that were made down the stretch,
that makes March a lot of fun.”
The biggest problem was how Duke didn’t put the game away.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese was called for a technical foul while
arguing for a foul after Kizer missed three shots in traffic with
about a minute left, but Thomas missed both free throws. Then,
after Maryland’s Dara Taylor hit a free throw to pull the Terrapins
within two, Cheek missed a clinching jumper, and Nared grabbed the
rebound and sprinted upcourt for the final shot.
Maryland had reached the quarterfinals by beating North Carolina
83-77 in Thursday’s first round despite letting a 16-point lead
slip all the way to two in the final seconds. The Terrapins had
lost eight of 12 to close the regular season, and now must wait to
find out their NCAA fate.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Frese said. “Like I
told them, we battled and competed for 40 minutes, and we were
right there. You talk about a play, a call, a possession, but we
left everything out there.”