Terps miss their Duke shot, 80-70

34% shooting, worst since '95, seals sixth straight loss to Devils

`We let one get away'

14-4 hole, Battier's 7 blocks loom large


COLLEGE PARK -- Get blown out by one of the most powerful college basketball teams in the nation, and you shrug.

Let an equally young Duke team off the ropes with some wretched shooting, as Maryland did yesterday, and you bang your head in the locker room.

There was no evidence of damaged cubicles where the Terps dress, but their clumsy marksmanship nearly bent the rims at Cole Field House. No. 8 Duke was the beneficiary of one of the worst offensive displays Maryland has had in years, as the Blue Devils posted an 80-70 Atlantic Coast Conference win over the 12th-ranked Terps.

It was the sixth straight time Maryland (11-4, 0-2) had lost to Duke (11-2, 2-0), and in several of those the superior Blue Devils simply steamrollered a pretty good Terps team. Yesterday's setback was the most exasperating because of Maryland's inability to hit everything from layups to free throws to three-pointers.

"I think we let one get away," sophomore guard Juan Dixon said after the nationally televised dud, Maryland's first loss at Cole in more than a year, since the Blue Devils last visited. "We had a lot of energy, we were really prepared and we thought we could send Duke home with a loss."

Not when you take 85 shots and make only 29, a field-goal percentage of .341 that was Maryland's worst since December 1995. Not when you connect on only four of 18 three-pointers. Not when you hit just eight of 17 foul shots, the Terps' shakiest free-throw percentage (.471) in 52 games.

Maryland, of course, said that Duke's defense had nothing to do with it, although Shane Battier did block seven shots and every time Terence Morris and Lonny Baxter touched the ball inside, it seemed that there was an extra Blue Devils defender offering help.

The Terps claim that there are no residual effects from previous losses to Duke, but it was telling that freshman point guard Steve Blake, with no bad memories of the Blue Devils in his psyche, was the only Maryland player who won his matchup.

For the second straight game, Maryland fell into an early hole, as Duke used 14 straight points to take a 14-4 lead. The Terps scrapped their way back to within 39-36 in the second minute of the second half, and had a possession to tie, but Morris had a weak turnover.

If Morris had gotten off a shot, he probably would have missed it, because Maryland could not locate an offensive rhythm.

The big three of Morris, Dixon and Baxter combined for a deceiving 45 points. Morris got six of his 18 after Battier fouled out with 5: 27 left; Dixon saw his monthlong three-point slump reach 21 straight misses with an 0-for-3 effort on a 6-for-18 day overall; and Baxter had a horrendous start.

The day before, Baxter said that "this is a different Duke team, they don't play particularly as good defense as the past Duke teams," but he might have changed his opinion after he missed his first eight shots.

The sophomore center's woes extended to the foul line, where he laid two bricks in the third minute, while Duke was establishing itself. It was very much a game in the 32nd minute, when Baxter missed the front end of two bonus situations during a clinching 10-0 spurt for the Blue Devils.

At the time, Maryland was 4-for-12 at the line, to Duke's 10-for-12, and the Blue Devils had a 17-8 scoring advantage there in a 10-point game. When Morris ended the Duke run with two free throws with 7: 17 left, even Maryland fans gave a couple of Bronx cheers, to the displeasure of coach Gary Williams.

"We're a 69 percent free-throw team, and all of a sudden they don't go in," Williams said. "You try to figure it out. A free throw should be the easiest shot that you can take from 15 feet, but it's also the toughest, because it's different than any other shot you take in the game."

The Terps were just as shaky from the field, where they missed 13 of their first 15 attempts, then started the second half 1-for-5, including misses by Dixon on two open jumpers.

Maryland came back with its 3-2 zone, a factor in Duke's 13 first-half turnovers. A 9-0 run that got the Terps within three was punctuated by Danny Miller, who knocked down Chris Carrawell at midcourt to get a steal and a breakaway dunk, but Maryland made few statements like that.

Duke shot a subpar 43.8 percent from the field, but every time the Blue Devils needed points, they went to one of their slashers.

After Blake's -- and Maryland's -- prettiest assist of the season set up the trailing Morris for a dunk that made it 45-41 with 14: 18 left, freshman Mike Dunleavy drove the baseline, then made a free throw. Carrawell moved to the point during Duke's late 10-0 run, which included a three-pointer from the left wing en route to his game-high 20.

"Carrawell was fabulous," coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the only senior in the game.

Battier followed with a three-point play that gave him 14 points and Duke a 64-48 lead with 7: 33 left. The Terps missed their first eight three-pointers of the second half, and by the time freshman Drew Nicholas made one with 1: 30 left that pulled them within 70-63, there were plenty of empty seats.

"Our other losses to Duke, we didn't play defense," said Morris, who scored his 1,000th career point. "Today our defense was OK, but we just couldn't put the ball in the hole. This is frustrating."

Maryland has until Saturday, when it goes to Georgia Tech, to stew over its first losing streak since last February.

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