‘Exhausted’ Duke wraps up tough stretch
For all that went wrong Saturday night at the Comcast Center, from poor interior defense to off-target 3-point shooting, Duke found itself part of an exciting finish against Maryland.
The Terrapins made the final play, with freshman guard Seth Allen drawing a foul while driving to the basket that led to his game-winning free throws in an 83-81 Maryland win.
Loath to accept a loss easily, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski admitted his Blue Devils (22-3, 9-3 in ACC) didn’t play their best in the loss that halted their six-game winning streak.
With the game coming at the end of a tough stretch of games, though, Krzyzewski wasn’t as harsh on his players as he could be for losing to a team that was below .500 in ACC play prior to the game.
“This has been an exhausting schedule for our team since N.C. State,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re playing on fumes and I think you cold tell that.”
Starting with that Feb. 7 game at home with N.C. State, which the Blue Devils won 98-85, Duke played four games in 10 days. Two were on the road, at Boston College on Feb. 10 and Maryland on Saturday night, while the N.C. State game and a win over rival North Carolina on Feb. 13 were at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
A snowstorm in Boston caused the Blue Devils to travel up and back for the Boston College game, which they won 62-61. Duke had a quick turnaround to play its fierce rival in a game that tipped at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
Since the players didn’t leave Cameron until 1 a.m. Thursday after the 73-68 win over UNC, they didn’t practice on Thursday. That gave the Blue Devils one day to prepare and travel to Maryland.
Duke senior guard Seth Curry didn’t show any ill effects at Maryland as he scored 25 points on 11 of 17 shooting. But he admitted the last week and a half was challenging.
“Yeah, it’s been tough,” Curry said. “You played some good teams on the road and obviously Carolina in the last game. It’s been fast paced and things like that. But I felt like we played well enough to win today in a tough environment. We just didn’t get it done.”
Duke saw Maryland shoot 60 percent in the game, and 67 percent in the second half.
The Terrapins twice built 10-point leads in the second half. Both times Duke came back.
The Devils tied the game at 81 with 16.7 seconds to play when freshman Rasheed Sulaimon sank three clutch free throws.
Maryland’s Seth Allen, though, was fouled by Duke’s Quinn Cook in the lane at the other end. Allen’s two free throws finished off the Blue Devils.
Duke played Maryland to the buzzer despite a sub-par night from center Mason Plumlee, who had four points and three rebounds. Plumlee took blame for the loss due to his poor performance.
Krzyzewski wasn’t ready to jettison his star, who entered the game averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds per game.
“Mason looked exhausted the whole game,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s been great. We’ll keep him. We believe in him. That’s just what happens. His teammates did a really great job. They showed so much heart to come back. (Maryland) had to win the game. We didn’t lose it. Our kids fought like crazy.”
Duke returns to a slower pace of games this week. The Blue Devils play at Virginia Tech Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN2) before a home game with Boston College on Sunday (2 p..m., WRAL).