Reporting Brendan Darr
Tonight had the feel of a special night from the moment you walked into the Comcast Center. The court was to be named after the Terps former coach Gary Williams, celebrating the excellence Williams brought to the program over the last 22 years. The Terps faced a Duke team, the biggest rival to Terps fans, coming off a loss at home to Florida State. In their last eleven games following a loss, Duke had not lost, and extended the streak to twelve straight wins following a loss as they pulled away down the stretch to defeat Maryland 74-61.
The intensity was off the charts for most of the game, easily it’s best crowd of the season. Of course it would be against rival Duke, but when the Terps got out to a fast start, the crowd didn’t let down. They got louder and louder, and it was clear the players were feeding off the crowd. Forward Ashton Pankey said after the game “We definitely feed off the crowd. It really helps our game. We used our heads early in the game and I was feeding off their [the crowd] energy.”
Before the game Gary Williams held a press conference, in it he mentioned how the crowd helped his former teams win many games, and hoped it continued under current coach Mark Turgeon. The crowd did it’s part, but after Maryland took their only lead in the second half, at 47-46, the Terps gave up a 7-0 run to Duke in a little over two minutes that proved insurmountable.
The Terps were never able to cut it closer than five points in the closing eight minutes. Free throws and missed rebounds in the defensive end proved to be the achilles heel of the Terrapins tonight. Maryland shot just 11-for-21 from the charity stripe. Terrell Stoglin, the teams second-best free throw shooter, shot an abysmal 2-for-7 for the game. This was the first game Stoglin had shot under 50% from the free throw line – and he took 21 free throws against Florida-Gulf Coast. Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer at 21.2 points per game, was held to just 16 points by Duke, and failed to hit a three.
The story for Duke was Mason Plumlee. He dominated every big man the Terps threw in front of him, or just went straight through them. Plumlee led Duke with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists. Mason Plumlee only had one block, but altered countless others. Maryland just didn’t have an answer for Plumlee all night.
Asked if he was the best big man he faced all season “I don’t know if I’d say he was the best, that would probably be JaMychal Green from Alabama. Even though he didn’t have the best game, he was the most physical, but he [Plumlee] was great tonight” Ashton Pankey said after the game.
Coach Turgeon also praised Plumlee’s play. Turgeon said “I wouldn’t change a thing that we did defensively. I just wish that what we were doing, we did a little bit better.” Turgeon mentioned how he didn’t want to double-team in the post and leave the best shooting team in the conference open jumpers from the perimeter.
At the end of the day, Turgeon said “What I saw tonight was encouraging.” Turgeon also had a telling quote at the end of his press conference about his relationship with Gary Williams. He said he would love to have Gary around any time, and maybe once all of Gary’s guys graduate, he would want him at practice.
Turgeon is doing a great job so far this with a roster made up almost exclusively of players Gary Williams brought to College Park. It’s never easy to follow a legend, but Gary said he was taking a backseat and letting Turgeon run the team. Turgeon had a rough start after losing two starters for the first few weeks of the season, but as he pointed out tonight, the team is markedly improved since the Puerto Rico Tip-Off – where the team lost two of three.
While the team is continuing to improve, and staying close with the number six team in the country is certainly improvement from barely beating Florida International a month ago, the team still has work to do. Asked about the improvement, Pe’Shon Howard didn’t hold back saying “It has been our trademark the past few years. Maybe it would have meant something last year, but not anymore. It means something when you turn around and win. Staying close to three or four doesn’t get you into the tournament.”
It’s a harsh criticism of their play of late, but ultimately, “That’s all that matters” Howard added.
Maryland has now lost three straight and has fallen t0 12-7 overall, 2-3 in the ACC. Maryland has a few days to prepare for their next game, Virginia Tech at home on Saturday at 2:30 pm. Virginia Tech is coming off a loss to Brigham Young university tonight at home. The loss tonight drops Virginia Tech to 12-8 and they are 1-4 in the ACC.