Maryland point guard Pe'Shon Howard was asked by a reporter after the Duke game whether there was any solace to be had from staying close to the Blue Devils for most of the game.

It was evident from Howard's unchanging expression that the answer was "no."

"It has been our trademark the past few years (to stay close but not win)," he said. "Maybe it would have meant something last year but not anymore. It means something when you turn around and win. Staying close to three or four (minutes left) doesn't get you into the tournament."

To coach Mark Turgeon, there is consolation from watching his team get better over time. It kills him to lose. But, at the same time, he believes his young team is on an upward arc,

"We're getting better," Turgeon said. "If you could have been in Puerto Rico (in November), you would have never thought that we could play like we're playing right now. So we're getting there. We have to give them (the Blue Devils ) credit. They are physical and I think they got a lot of breaks tonight and they create their own breaks, too."

For Maryland, it was TMP -- too many Plumlees.

Said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "The last 16 minutes of the game we played really well. The last 10, we got a lot of those scrum balls, tough balls to get, loose balls, rebounds. Mason (Plumlee) was spectacular tonight."

 It is frustrating for Terps fans to see their team consistently come close before sagging late in games.

Sometimes, the Terps get worn down by superior size and depth. Sometimes they get into foul trouble. I think Maryland was going on crowd-fueled adrenalin and guts for much of Wednesday night's game.

Turgeon said of the sellout crowd, amped up by the presence of Duke and retired coach Gary Williams: "It was great. I'd like to see it more often."