Sloppy Terps lose grip in 81-69 defeat UM's season-high 26 turnovers spur loss at No. 7 Duke

Blue Devils clinch ACC tie

Setback is Terps' 6th in past 9 ACC games

February 28, 1997|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN STAFF

DURHAM, N.C. -- They already had committed more turnovers than in any other game this season. They had not shot particularly well. But with a little under six minutes left last night at steamy Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Maryland Terrapins still had a chance to beat Duke.

When Keith Booth hit a 14-foot jump shot to pull the 16th-ranked Terrapins within three points -- the first outside jumper the senior forward had hit in nearly a month -- it seemed as if the Terrapins were also ready to do something they hadn't done in a while.

Beat a ranked team.

Win an Atlantic Coast Conference road game.

But the seventh-ranked Blue Devils never flinched. Instead, they kept firing away from even longer distances -- three-point distance -- and stopped the Terrapins cold. The result was an 81-69 defeat for Maryland, the sixth in its past nine ACC games.

The victory was the eighth straight in the ACC for Duke (23-6, 12-3). With the win, the Blue Devils clinched at least a share of the league's regular-season championship. Duke finishes its regular season at North Carolina on Sunday.

"For us the stakes were very high," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "To win a game like this with that at stake makes it all the more rewarding."

While Maryland (20-8, 9-6) lost its slim chance at sharing a regular-season title, as well as a possible sweep of Tobacco Road, the Terrapins still have a chance to tie for third place if they beat Virginia on Sunday in Charlottesville and the Blue Devils beat the eighth-ranked Tar Heels.

"I don't think we are playing that bad," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We just have to do a couple of things better. We out-rebounded Duke tonight [38-31] and we did some good things, but we have to get 40 minutes of consistency. I don't see us being really consistent right now."

While losing for the first time this season after out-rebounding the opposition, Maryland was hurt by a season-high 26 turnovers, as well as the foul problems of Booth and sophomore center Obinna Ekezie. But the Terrapins ultimately were done in by Duke's three-point shooting down the stretch.

After Booth's jumper cut Maryland's deficit to 65-62 with 5: 51 remaining, junior guard Ricky Price and sophomore guard Trajan Langdon sandwiched three-pointers around another Booth jumper, a 15-footer that came up 2 feet short. It started an 8-1 run that ended with two free throws by Langdon.

"We had a chance, the key thing was that we didn't get matched up well in their transition game," said Williams, who watched in frustration as two of the three-pointers came when Maryland failed to switch when Duke screened for its shooters. "They get a lot of threes in transition, and they shoot the ball well."

The Blue Devils finished 7-for-22 overall on three-pointers, but hit them in bunches.

Steve Wojciechowski, the former Cardinal Gibbons star who finished with 11 points and six assists, said, "That's our identity. That's been our identity all season. Why stop doing something that's been working for you so well all year?"

It took awhile for the Terrapins to do what has been working for them until recently. They got the ball to Booth, who finished with 15 of his team-high 22 points in the second half before fouling out with a little over four minutes left. Senior guard Jeff Capel led the Blue Devils with 18.

Along with junior forward Rodney Elliott, who came off the bench for the foul-prone Ekezie to finish with 14 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes, Maryland managed to hang in there a long time for a team that committed 18 first-half turnovers. The Terrapins trailed at half, 34-33.

"It was a combination of Duke's defense and our carelessness," XTC said junior guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, who along with sophomore guard Terrell Stokes equally split 12 of the Terps' turnovers. "The biggest thing for them here is they really get in your face and the crowd really gets into it."

Said Williams: "You just look at 26 turnovers. That is probably the most visible stat of the game. Duke plays good defense obviously. But at the same time I thought we committed some of those ourselves. They were kind of unforced errors. So they really put us in a tough situation in terms of getting enough shots to beat Duke, because Duke is playing very well offensively."

The oppressive heat and humidity inside this fabled gym didn't help. With the temperature hovering near 80 degrees yesterday, the building's lack of air conditioning and Maryland's depth helped wear down the Terrapins.

Williams also conceded that Duke's ability to bring fresh bodies off the bench played a factor in his team's defeat.

"It's to their credit to do that," said Williams, who aside from Elliott got very little from reserves Matt Kovarik and Brian Watkins (four fouls, four points, one rebound in a combined 17 minutes). "Hopefully, next year we'll be able to do that. But that didn't help us tonight."

Neither did a bunch of other things.

Turnovers.

Fouls.

Duke's three-point shooting down the stretch.

Take your pick.

Pub Date: 2/28/97

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