DURHAM, N.C. -- There are games that defy logic, games that even the wildest imagination could fathom. And then there was last night's Maryland-Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was beyond even that.
In a wild and crazy year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it might have been the wildest and craziest game of all. Consider this: with Walt Williams on the bench, the Terrapins had a shot to beat the top-ranked Blue Devils.
But with Maryland trailing by one, Kevin McLinton's running 14-footer under pressure missed with seven seconds to go. And after Thomas Hill hit a free throw, Evers Burns threw away an outlet pass as Duke held on for a 91-89 victory.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for Maryland (10-13, 3-9), which trailed 84-74 with 5:33 to go. With Williams, who had scored 26 points before fouling out with a little under seven minutes left, on the bench, McLinton led yet another comeback.
But after a knifing drive by McLinton with 38 seconds gave the Terps the lead, Christian Laettner put Duke (21-1, 11-1) back ahead 16 seconds later. When McLinton's running 14-footer bounced off the side of the rim, Hill was fouled and the comeback seemed over.
Hill, though, missed the second of two free throws and Burns, spotting Matthew Downing going out on the break, fired a pass that skidded out of bounds at midcourt. Duke inbounded the ball and the buzzer sounded, as well as a palpable sigh of relief.
After trailing at halftime 52-46, a pair of free throws by Williams with 16:15 to go pulled the Terps to within 61-56. But less than a minute later, Williams was on the bench with his fourth and Maryland was seemingly on its way to getting blown out.
On Williams' fourth, he made a half-hearted attempt at picking up a charge against Duke's Brian Davis. But he was late getting position and Davis scored easily. His three-point play increased the Blue Devils' lead to 66-56. Two breakaway dunks by Thomas Hill following turnovers pushed Duke's lead to 14.
But the Terps kept chipping away and after Williams returned, he led Maryland back again. A drive by Williams pulled Maryland to within 10, a steal and dunk by Burns and a three-point shot by Williams made it 70-65.
Then things started getting even more interesting. After a layup by Grant Hill gave Duke a 73-65 lead, the Blue Devils' point guard picked up his fourth personal with a little under 11 minutes left. With Bobby Hurley sidelined with a broken foot, that left little-used Kenny Blakeney as Duke's only point guard.
An errant pass by Blakeney turned into a steal and dunk by Williams, cutting Duke's lead to five, 77-72. But Davis countered with a three-point shot for the Blue Devils. After a short jumper by Burns, Blakeney got the ball inside to Davis, who was fouled by Williams with 6:41 to go. It was his fifth personal.
Maryland got off to a much better start than it did up in College Park, when the Terps fell behind, 25-8, and never caught up.
Last night, they hit 11 of their first 15 shots and led, 24-22, on a three-pointer by Williams with a little less than 11 minutes left in the half. The hot shooting stunned the Blue Devils, and their fans.
Early on, Maryland beat Duke's pressure defense down court for a number of dunks and layups. Mostly it was accomplished by McLinton, who continually outraced a seemingly tired Grant Hill up the floor.
After a free throw by Christian Laettner cut Maryland's lead to 24-23, Williams started heating up. A drive by the 6-foot-8 senior pushed the Terps ahead by three. It grew to five, and nearly to seven.
With junior center Chris Kerwin on the bench after picking up his third foul with 7:27 left, freshman Kurtis Shultz found himself matched up against Laettner. And, for a moment, he found himself open near the basket.
But with Maryland ahead, 36-31, Shultz blew a layup on a feed from Williams. It opened the door for the Blue Devils, who barged through with a 14-0 run that seemingly put the game away.
To Maryland's credit, Duke couldn't blow it open in the first half. Even after Williams picked up his third personal with 2:45 left in the half, even after Gary Williams got called for a technical, even after blowing four straight free throws, the Terps managed to hang tough.
Trailing 51-42 with a little more than a minute left, Maryland cut its deficit to 52-46 at halftime. The Terps finished the half shooting 20 of 31 from the field. Williams led Maryland with 13 points and five rebounds.