COLLEGE PARK -- Gary Williams was not in a very good mood the past few days. It was largely due to Maryland's 32-point defeat Wednesday night at fifth-ranked North Carolina, the worst loss since Williams returned to coach his alma mater last season.
By late yesterday afternoon, Maryland's fortunes hadn't changed, but Williams' mood had brightened considerably. The Terrapins had lost another Atlantic Coast Conference game to another nationally ranked team, but Williams was encouraged by the effort his players showed in a 94-78 loss to No. 14 Duke.
Under some very difficult circumstances -- namely, a leg injury to junior point guard and leading scorer Walt Williams midway through the first half -- Maryland (8-6, 1-3) demonstrated that its collective heart is probably greater than its overall talent. For that, a sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House was appreciative.
So was Gary Williams.
"I had no fear about us not coming back and playing hard today," he said after Maryland's 10-game home winning streak was broken. "Our start might have been a little carry-over from that [North Carolina] game, but over the course of the 40 minutes, we played hard. And we had some things go against us. I thought some guys came in a did a good job [after Williams got hurt]."
After Duke (12-3, 2-1) scored the game's first 10 points and later led 20-8, the Terps climbed to within 25-23 when senior center Cedric Lewis dunked in a miss by Kevin McLinton. But Williams, who had been accidentally kneed in the side of the leg earlier in the game, was inadvertently kicked by Duke forward Brian Davis with a little over five minutes left in the first half.
At the time Williams left the game, Maryland trailed, 37-31. The Terps didn't score another basket until backup point guard Matthew Downing hit a three-point shot with 31 seconds left in the half to cut Duke's lead to 48-38. Williams limped back for the start of the second, hit his first shot (for 11 points) and then came out for good with a little under 13 minutes left and the Blue Devils leading , 66-48.
"Duke's a very good team, and I thought we pulled together and played hard in the second half," said Walt Williams, whose leg was to be X-rayed after the game. "Our shots didn't fall."
With an odd collection of players -- at times including little used walk-on Mike Thibeault of Glen Burnie -- Maryland made a stab at a comeback. A full-court press helped the Terps twice cut what had been a 20-point deficit in half, the second time at 80-70 with 4 minutes, 53 seconds remaining. After a steal by Matt Roe, Maryland had a chance to chop more off Duke's lead.
But after Brian Davis dove to the floor to steal a pass, Maryland assistant coach Billy Hahn was called for a technical foul by lead official Gerry Donaghy. Billy McCaffrey hit both free throws and, on the ensuing possession, Bobby Hurley hit a three-point shot and buried any hopes the Terps might have had for an upset.
"We were right there," said Gary Williams. "It's a shame that it [the technical] has to happen in that situation. I like the players to win games. It's a shame because it was a five-point swing."
In reality, the players did win yesterday's game for Duke, in particular Hurley. The sophomore point guard scored a game-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including five of eight on three-point shots. He also had 10 assists, which overshadowed his eight turnovers. McCaffrey, the other half of Duke's all-sophomore backcourt, finished with 20. Junior center Christian Laettner had a quiet 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Maryland couldn't make up for Walt Williams' absence. Lewis carried the Terps in stretches, with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots (also seven turnovers). Roe had 13 points. Broadnax came off the bench for eight points, six rebounds and four steals, playing power forward at 6 feet 3. Downing had eight points, too, hitting a couple of three-pointers.
"I thought when Walt got hurt, it brought us closer together," said Lewis, who continues to progress into a prime-time player. "I thought our bench did a great job. But we fell behind early and we were climbing out of a hole all day."
Said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: "You hate to see a player like Williams, or any player, get hurt. But when that happens, a team will sometimes come up with a tremendous effort, and that's what they did today."
Maryland got an "A" for effort.
NOTES: The Terps have off until Wednesday, when they meet Virginia at home.