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February 11, 2007

Maryland extends Duke's woes

It was a different script but the same tragic ending for Duke in the Blue Devils' fourth straight loss Sunday evening on the road at Maryland.

Instead of building a double digit lead only to see it vanish away, Duke fell into a deep early hole and couldn't climb its way completely out of it, losing to the Terrapins 72-60 at Comcast Center.

The Blue Devils were victimized by an early Maryland onslaught before a blood thirsty crowd, as the Terrapins opened up a 29-9 lead in the first 11 minutes of the first half.

Though the Blue Devils fought back to close within single digits with less than four minutes to play in the half, the offense stalled again in the final few possessions, allowing Maryland to reassert some control with a 40-28 halftime lead.

Again in the second half, Duke made a run, but when the Blue Devils cut the margin to 56-50 on a Josh McRoberts' dunk at the 10 minute mark, they followed that up with consecutive turnovers and a missed jumper which allowed Maryland to separate the game and ultimately go up 62-52.

College Park is easily the toughest road environment Duke has faced so far this season, and Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that his young team didn't react very well to the energy of the crowd or the Terrapins.

"I dont think this group has been hit by the energy, not just of the other team, but the crowd, and the pace of the game. It knocked us so far back," Krzyzewski said. "We started righting the ship about the middle of the first half. We spotted them 20 points, and then we got it down to about nine or 11, and then the last four minutes we turned the ball over; we had 12 first half turnovers."

It was the stretch in the second half after Duke had trimmed the lead to six that sealed a fourth straight loss for the now 18-7 Blue Devils, as once the lead extended back to double digits, Duke was essentially knocked out.

"In the second half, I thought we got more control of the game, got it down to six, and then we had three empty possessions where we didn't get a shot and we turned it over," Coach K said. "Really in the second half that's the only time we turned it over, but it was at a time where we if hit one of those buckets you make [the lead] four or three [points]."

Greg Paulus carried the Duke offense early on to help keep the Blue Devils within striking distance. The sophomore point guard scored the first five points of the game before trouble started mounting.

Maryland responded to that 5-0 deficit by going on an extended 29-4 run that forced Duke to fight an uphill battle the rest of the night.

DeMarcus Nelson picked up three quick fouls, and added a fourth shortly into the second half, further hampering Duke's offensive production because the foul trouble limited him to just 20 minutes of action.

Josh McRoberts finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, but Maryland's interior players won the overall battle.

James Gist and Ekene Ibekwe combined for 29 points and 17 rebounds, which helped open up the perimeter game as well.

Guards D.J. Strawberry and Greivis Vasquez tallied 28 points between them to give the Terrapins four double digit scorers.

Further limiting Duke's offensive output was the off shooting performance from freshman Jon Scheyer.

Scheyer hit just 3-of-9 shots from the floor to score 11 points, making him just 15-of-39 (38.5 percent) over the past four games.

The Blue Devils face no other choice but to pick themselves up off the mat and get ready for a Valentine's Day matchup with Boston College Wednesday night in Chestnut Hill.

Despite the holiday, the Blue Devils can expect no love from the crowd at Conte Forum.

In order to stop this losing streak and avoid slipping into very perilous NCAA Tournament position, Duke will have to handle the hostile road environment much better than it did Sunday in College Park, where the Blue Devils now hold a 2-3 all time record at Comcast Center.

"Their energy knocked us back," Coach K said. "They just play better against us. They're old, they're talented, and their crowd [was a factor]. I think they wanted it more than us. That's not to say our kids didn't want it; our kids have not faced anything like that, this group. I thought Greg was maybe trying to do too much on his own, trying to be a leader. Once we started playing, the turnovers were the things that hurt us."


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