DURHAM, N.C. -- They wanted to show the country that their national ranking was deserved. They wanted to show Duke that it had a new challenger to contend with in the Atlantic Coast Conference. And they wanted to show themselves that their four-game ACC winning streak wasn't merely the result of playing mostly teams at the bottom of the league.
Instead, the 18th-ranked Maryland Terrapins showed their inexperience yesterday. They showed their lack of consistent outside shooting and lack of muscle inside. While the final score in a 75-62 loss to the second-ranked Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium was respectable enough, it wasn't reflective of the way Maryland in general, and freshman center Joe Smith in particular, was manhandled by Duke.
"Unless you're on your game against the No. 2 team in the country on their home court, you're not going to win," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose Terps dropped out of a first-place tie in the ACC with the Blue Devils with Maryland's 14th straight loss to Duke. "We didn't play well enough to win, but Duke had a lot to do with it."
After playing its way back from a 13-point deficit midway through the first half, and from 12 down with 5:59 left in the half, to climb within 42-38 by halftime, Maryland (12-4, 5-2) played its way out of serious contention in the first five minutes of the second half.
That's how long it took the Terps to get their first points of the half. Maryland missed its first 10 shots of the half before Smith dunked in a rebound follow to cut Duke's lead to 50-40. Two subsequent free throws by sophomore point guard Duane Simpkins on the same possession brought it down to eight.
"We went to the locker room at halftime feeling really confident," said sophomore guard Johnny Rhodes, who had kept Maryland close by scoring 14 of his team-high 16 points by halftime. "When we came out, we had a mental block. There were times when four guys would be pressing and the other guy would be playing man-to-man."
Said freshman forward Keith Booth, whose fourth foul early in the second was damaging to Maryland's chances: "You have to play close to a perfect game against a team like Duke, and we didn't. Every time we made a little run, they hit a big shot."
Still, the Terps had a chance to make it a game after reserve forward Mario Lucas hit a short jumper to trim Duke's lead back to 52-44. But Maryland's offense went scoreless for more than five minutes and without a basket for nearly six as the Blue Devils went on a 13-1 run to lead by much as 65-45.
While they briefly regained their composure to score nine straight points, the Terps never really found their shooting touch. After missing 14 of its first 15 shots to start the second half, Maryland finished 8-for-34 over the last 20 minutes, a season-low 35.9 percent (23-for-64) overall. The starters combined to go 18-for-56, including only 3-for-11 by Smith.
"It's a learning experience," said Smith, who was given a lesson in the post by Duke junior Cherokee Parks (24 points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots), finishing with a hard-earned 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. "But we have to bounce back. We're a young team, and they're an experienced team. We have to learn how to run our offense for 40 minutes."
Unlike some of Maryland's recent ACC opponents, Duke (15-1, 6-1) took advantage of those dry spells. Even though All-American forward Grant Hill got into foul trouble before the Terps staged their first-half comeback -- "You can see we were a different team the 6 1/2 minutes Grant was out," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski -- the Blue Devils were far too savvy, making plays when needed.
Although Hill finished with only eight points, he helped break Maryland's full-court press early and often, contributing eight assists to Duke's cause.
Fellow senior Antonio Lang overcame two early fouls to finish with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five of his team's nine blocks, outplaying an often confused Exree Hipp (2-for-11 shooting, five points). And the Blue Devils' guards did a good job of forcing Simpkins into the teeth of Duke's defense, and Smith into double-teams.
"They did what some other ACC teams don't do -- they run," said Simpkins, who with 11 points kept his double-figure scoring streak going at nine games, but didn't dictate as he had recently. "They don't run as much as we do, but I think it tired us out. We didn't come out in the second half as we should have."
How Maryland comes back from yesterday's defeat could set the tone for the rest of the season. The Terps play three of their next four games on the road -- starting Wednesday at Virginia -- and the egos seemed a little bruised in the silent locker room.
"I think we'll be OK," said Williams. "We'll see what happens in the future. As long as you can learn from a situation like this, it's not all that bad. We just have to keep things realistic."
Duke certainly gave the Terps a dose of reality. Maybe even a double dose.
NOTES: Lucas, who was 0-for-8 in Wednesday's win over Clemson, came back with a strong performance, hitting five of seven shots to finish with 10 points and seven rebounds. . . . Rhodes had six steals.