Terps top­ple Duke

Mary­land sees lead slip but knocks off No. 2 Blue Devils at home, 83-81

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALEX PRE­WITT

MARY­LAND 83, DUKE 81

Stu­dents be­gan lin­ing up out­side Com­cast Cen­ter at 6 a.m. on Satur­day morn­ing, with­stand­ing a breezy and rainy day to fill the stands once the doors opened three hours be­fore the 6 p.m. tip-off. Some­time around mid-af­ter­noon, Mary­land fresh­man guard Seth Allen and his team­mates staged a drop-in, thank­ing the fans for sup­port­ing the team. They tossed a foot­ball and posed for pic­tures, pre­tend­ing to nap be­side one fan who had camped out since Wed­nes­day.

Then the Ter­rap­ins en­tered the build­ing for their game against No. 2 Duke, fi­nally ready to cash in on the ex­cite­ment and ex­pec­ta­tions that had pre­vi­ously seemed to over­whelm them.

Rid­ing the waves of en­ergy revving through­out Com­cast Cen­ter like a mo­tor­cy­cle en­gine, the Ter­rap­ins sparked their sec­ond court-storming in ex­actly one month with an 83-81 win over the Blue Devils. With its NCAA tour­na­ment chances hang­ing by a thread, Mary­land sum­moned enough magic to, at least for one night, patch the hole in its ré­sumé.

Never be­fore had the Terps (18-7, 6- 6 ACC) seemed as en­er­gized this sea­son, re­ju­ve­nated fol­low­ing a soul-

search­ing six-day break that saw ju­nior guard Pe’Shon Howard sus­pended for vi­o­lat­ing team rules, and both Howard and James Pad­gett stripped of their cap­taincy by Coach Mark Tur­geon. The Terps traded blows with the hated Blue Devils, and when Quinn Cook missed a des­per­a­tion heave at the buzzer, just sec­onds af­ter Allen calmly drained two game-win­ning free throws, the game was fi­nally in Mary­land’s grasp.

“I was so hot,” Allen said of the postgame chaos. “Ev­ery­one was grab­bing me. They picked me up. I just tried to get out of there.”

Sopho­more cen­ter Alex Len, out­mus­cled in the teams’ first meet­ing three weeks ear­lier, fi­nally brought the fire that has NBA scouts drool­ing, fin­ish­ing with 19 points and nine re­bounds. The Terps shot 60 per­cent from the field, at­tempted a sea­son-high 34 free throws and out­re­bounded the Blue Devils by 20. Even while cough­ing up a sea­son-high 26 turnovers, mostly on overzeal­ous drib­bling and er­rant passes, the Terps man­aged to keep Duke (22-3, 9-3) at bay, en­ter­ing half­time up 35-34, just their sec­ond lead at in­ter­mis­sion over the past eight games.

“I chal­lenged Alex about be­ing Ma­son Plum­lee’s lit­tle brother,” an emo­tional Tur­geon said of the matchup be­tween the teams’ pre­mier big men. “He treats you like a lit­tle brother. I said: ‘I’m tired of be­ing a lit­tle brother since I’ve been here. It’s time for us to step up, act like we’re one of the big guys on the block.’ Ob­vi­ously we’re not. We’re only 6- 6 in the league. But we beat a really good team tonight. Is it a break­through win? We’ll see.”

Pound­ing at Plum­lee to start the sec­ond half, Mary­land forced an early timeout af­ter Allen made a three-pointer from the top of the key. As Allen and Dez Wells (nine points, seven re­bounds, seven as­sists) stood at mid­court, flap­ping their arms and im­plor­ing the crowd to up the vol­ume, fresh­man Shaquille Cleare sank two free throws that gave the Terps an eight-point lead, their largest of the game un­til Allen did the same less than two min­utes later, push­ing the mar­gin to 10.

As Mary­land’s spoiler show on the na­tional stage stam­peded to­ward the fin­ish, Wells and Plum­lee fouled out within 12 sec­onds of each other. Rasheed Su­lai­mon, who notched a ca­reer-high 25 points in Duke’s 20-point blowout on Jan. 26, hit three free throws to knot the score with 16 sec­onds left. But the sec­ond-half col­lapse that has be­fallen Mary­land so of­ten in this ri­valry never came. And so a matchup near­ing ex­tinc­tion, its ex­pi­ra­tion date coin­cid­ing with Mary­land’s 2014 move to the Big Ten, served up a mas­ter­piece.

“We talked about pride and pas­sion, play­ing with those two things tonight,” Tur­geon said. “For us, and for our fans. Never quit, never had a doubt we were go­ing to win the game. Just really proud of my kids.”

Af­ter a timeout, Allen bided his time be­fore cross­ing over against Cook and surg­ing into the lane. Cook bumped him along the way, send­ing the pen­cil-mous­tached fresh­man to the line. With the arena grave­yard silent, Duke guard Tyler Thorn­ton be­gan jaw­ing in Allen’s ear. Mary­land’s Nick Faust re­sponded in kind, eas­ing the ten­sion and re­lax­ing his team­mate. So be­fore Allen sank the big­gest free throws of his life, first he be­gan to laugh.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASHINGTON POST

Mary­land’s Alex Len swats Josh Hairston’s shot. Len had 19 points, nine re­bounds and three blocks.

Charles Mitchell, stand­ing be­tween Shaquille Cleare (44) and James Pad­gett (35), gets a hug from Mark Tur­geon late in the game.

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