College Park bids Duke adieu

This evening, the University of Maryland played host to Duke in men’s basketball. With Maryland on the verge of leaving the ACC for the Big Ten — where, rumor has it, the referees don’t call fouls for breathing on an opponent — this visit by Coach K and his crew will likely be their last for years.

Maryland marked the occasion by upsetting Duke 83-81. In fairness to Duke, they were playing their third game in seven days, while the Terps had a week to prepare for this particular encounter. But you take a win over Duke any way you can get it.

In this case, we got it primarily by outrebounding the Blue Devils by a 38-17 margin. Although Duke may have been a tired team, I thought they were a little weak on the boards even when they beat us by 20 points earlier in the season. On that occasion, we outrebounded Duke by 42-31.

Today, Duke stayed in the game thanks to 26 Maryland turnovers. Eight of them were committed by freshman point guard Seth Allen, one of three freshmen starters deployed by coach Mark Turgeon. Pe’Shon Howard, who normally shares the point guard job with Allen, was benched for disciplinary reasons. Not that Maryland is immune from turning the ball over to an ungodly degree when Howard plays. For example, we turned the ball over 21 times in a loss to North Carolina last month, with Howard guilty of one-third of that total.

But Allen wasn’t just a turnover machine today. He chipped in with 16 points, including the two free-throws that won the game with less than three seconds remaining.

Allen got to the line by getting around his man off the dribble, something he was able to do throughout the game. It was bringing the ball with him that, from time-to-time, proved problematic.

Maryland’s star was its best player, Alex Len, a 7-1 Ukrainian. In 28 minutes, Len posted 19 points (on 6-8 shooting), 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. His Duke counterpart, all-American candidate Mason Plumlee, had only 4 points, 3 rebounds, and no blocks. Plumlee also fouled out of the game.

Len lacks only consistency. In a way, that’s fortunate for Maryland, since it’s all that stands between his certain departure for the NBA this summer (though he might leave anyway).

Despite Duke’s dominance over Maryland, including many a rout, I’ll miss playing them. For there are few sporting highs that surpass watching the Terps prevail over Coach K’s crew in the kind of game the two teams played tonight.

JOHN adds: You’re right about Big Ten officiating, the philosophy is: if it isn’t a felony, it isn’t a foul.

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