No. 3 Maryland did not just beat the top-ranked and defending national champion Duke Blue Devils before a raucous sellout crowd that turned up the heat at Cole Field House. The Terps spanked their Atlantic Coast Conference rivals from start to finish with a textbook display of elite-level basketball that made Duke look ordinary.
"We had a lot of confidence going into this game, and we wanted to set the tempo and dominate this game. I think we did that at both ends of the floor," said Maryland senior guard Juan Dixon. "It's very sweet."
How did Maryland seize control of the ACC regular-season race and take a big step toward a No. 1 seed in next month's NCAA tournament with such relative ease? Let us count the ways.
Maryland (21-3, 11-1 ACC), which won its eighth straight, its 13th in the past 14, and ended Duke's 11-game winning streak, never wavered from its approach at either end of the court.
The Terps ran their offense with precision, out-hustled the Blue Devils to endless loose balls, dug in on defense and made Duke sweat consistently for baskets.
"I don't think today was about one individual matchup," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "I can't single out one person on their team. Their team played better than we did."
On offense, the Terps stuck to their winning formula by getting the ball inside, where they felt they had a decisive advantage in size and depth.
Sophomore forward Chris Wilcox, responding to the national stage as he did three months ago here against Illinois, abused the Blue Devils by scoring a career-high 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Senior center Lonny Baxter picked up wherever Wilcox left off by producing his third consecutive double double, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Sparked by a near-perfect effort from junior point guard Steve Blake, who, in 37 minutes, produced eight points, 13 assists and only one turnover while hounding Williams on defense, the Terps made their open shots count and took down the Blue Devils (23-2, 11-2) with unselfishness and scoring balance.
Senior forward Byron Mouton had 15 points and nine rebounds. Dixon erased a slow start and negated a six-turnover day by scoring 13 of his 17 points in the second half.
Defensively, Maryland gave up a combined 51 points to Duke's superb trio of Williams, forward Mike Dunleavy and center Carlos Boozer, but never allowed any of them to be serious factors.
Most of Boozer's points came after Duke had fallen too far behind. After being assigned to guard Dunleavy, Wilcox surrendered 10 quick points to him, then buckled down, as Dunleavy finished with 15 before fouling out with 1:33 left. Williams missed 16 of 22 shots, made just two of 12 from three-point range, and saw few of the dribble-penetration openings he enjoyed in last month's 21-point Maryland loss in Durham, N.C.
This time, Blake got help when the junior blew by him. The Terps set the tone early by depositing Williams on the floor with hard fouls.
In the end, the Blue Devils settled for 33 three-point shots, made only seven, shot just 36 percent overall and came up with their lowest point production of the season.
"Against some teams, you can get away with not running your best offense, but we had to today. Every pass was big. Every defensive stop was like building something," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who entered the game with a 6-25 record against Duke, including 4-25 against Krzyzewski.
"It's really hard when you play a team like that and you get them down by 20; you think, 'Well, this game is over.' But you can't look at a Duke player and see that on their faces. There was a lot of pressure on us to win this game."
It was an emotional day for Williams, who has spent a combined 18 years as a player and coach at soon-to-be-vacated Cole Field House. On top of coaching the team that earned arguably the most impressive victory ever in the building - although Maryland has beaten five other No. 1 schools there - Williams learned Saturday that his father, William, had died at age 85.