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

Terrapins.

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.”