COLLEGE PARK - Steve Blake slumped over at his locker, staring at the floor. Terence Morris refused to talk. Mike Mardesich said he had never been stunned like this before.
The eighth-ranked Maryland Terrapins wore the vacant looks of a team that had just been ambushed, which is exactly what the second-ranked Duke Blue Devils did to them after stumbling around sold-out Cole Field House for most of last night.
The Terps might need an extra hour or two to get over this one. After taking command of the game in the first half and leading by as many as 15 points, then holding off the Blue Devils for nearly the entire second half and leading by 10 with just under a minute to go, Maryland collapsed.
Duke, which has found many ways to win while outclassing the Atlantic Coast Conference for so long, dug down and punched the Terps with a 10-0 run in the final 54 seconds to force overtime, then got seven points and a game-clinching blocked shot in the extra period from All-American Shane Battier to edge Maryland, 98-96.
Second-ranked Duke (19-1, 7-0) maintained its first-place standing in the ACC and won its 23rd consecutive conference game on the road. Maryland (14-5, 5-2) walked off the floor shaking its collective head.
"I knew it wasn't over, but I thought we had it in hand," said Terps point guard Steve Blake, who produced an inspired effort against Duke's Jason Williams by recording 11 points and nine assists before fouling out with 1:15 left in regulation.
"This is definitely the worst loss I've ever had. I just feel terrible. My body is drained. You get excited to have something, then you get it taken away."
Battier, who blocked a game-tying shot by Juan Dixon after Dixon had driven the length of the floor and slashed to the basket, might have supplied the final blows. But Williams made the Blue Devils believe they could overcome an opponent that started to celebrate a bit too soon.
After negating Williams for much of the night, Maryland failed to account for him the final minute of regulation, when he scored eight unanswered points, six by way of three-pointers, to pull Duke within 90-88 with 40.4 seconds left.
Dixon then got triple-teamed on the ensuing inbounds pass, lost the ball and watched seconds later as Nate James tied the score at 90 with a pair of free throws.
Williams finished with 25 points, after scoring five in the first half. That made the pain of his 10 turnovers disappear. Battier finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Each player performed for 42 minutes. Duke's five starters combined to score 94 points.
Maryland had five players in double figures, led by Dixon's 17. Byron Mouton had 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. The Terps, who were without Lonny Baxter for much of the night due to foul trouble, wasted another great effort from its bench.
Tahj Holden led the backups with 14 points and seven rebounds. Danny Miller had nine points, three rebounds and two assists.
The Terps lost for only the second time in 15 games because they lost their composure down the stretch and got few favors from the officials, who whistled Maryland for 31 fouls, compared to Duke's 21.
Baxter was on the bench early after getting called for a questionable touch foul. Morris (13 points) fouled out early in overtime, following Blake to the bench. No Duke players fouled out.
"I wish I could talk about that, but I can't," Blake said.
Duke took 42 foul shots, converting 32. Maryland made 20 of 28, and missed key attempts in crunch time.
"You've got to play for 40 minutes against Duke. We played for 38 or 39," Mouton said.
Down by 10 and in desperate straits, Duke began fouling the Terps, who responded with hesitation. Backup point guard Drew Nicholas missed three of four free throws in the final minute of regulation to give the Blue Devils the opening they needed.
Williams seized the moment, making a layup, producing a steal, following that with a three-pointer, then converting a three-pointer in transition after Nicholas missed back-to-back free throws with 40 seconds left in regulation. Battier, who also struggled to find his shot against Maryland's man-to-man and 2-3 zone defenses, caught fire in overtime. His three-pointer gave Duke a 95-92 lead with 3:52 left. After Dixon cut the lead to 95-94, Battier converted two free throws to make it 97-94 with 2:02 remaining.
Two free throws by Holden made it 97-96, but Maryland failed to score after Duke missed its next five shots. Battier hit a free throw to give Duke a 98-96 lead, then blocked Dixon's shot just before the final horn sounded.
"This is probably the most stunning game I've been a part of," said Mardesich, who finished with four points. "We saw ourselves with a nice lead with a couple of minutes to go and we started playing a little passive. We gave it away."
Said Terps coach Gary Williams: "The test as to whether we're a good team will be how ready we are to play Virginia on Wednesday, because that's going to be a very difficult game. This is very disappointing, but as I said before the game, I've been here before. Don't let this take you away from your next nine ACC games."
Next for Terps
Site: University Hall, Charlottesville, Va.
When: Wednesday, 9 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)
Rankings: Maryland No. 8; Virginia No. 13
Records: Maryland 14-5, 5-2 ACC; Virginia 14-4, 3-4 ACC