Hill test too steep for Terps as Duke holds on, 73-69

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- Next year, Maryland might finally beat Duke. When the young Terrapins have gotten some more seasoning, and Grant Hill has gotten his degree. But not quite yet. And not last night.

After slipping behind by 10 points midway through the second half, the Terps had the nation's No. 2 team on the ropes at Cole Field House. But Hill came to the rescue, lifting the Blue Devils to a 73-69 victory. With North Carolina losing at Wake Forest last night, Duke clinched its second Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship in the past three years.


Hill scored 19 points, including 11 in the second half, as Duke (22-3, 12-3) beat Maryland (15-10, 7-8) for the 15th straight time and the 21st time in the past 22 games.

Johnny Rhodes and Joe Smith led the Terps with 16 points


apiece, with the freshman center also contributing 13 rebounds and six blocked shots, tying his career high.

The defeat was the third straight for the Terps, who now must take their hopes for a .500 regular-season record in the ACC and a possible bid to the NCAA tournament into Saturday's regular-season finale at home against Virginia.

"We're obviously disappointed -- we came in to win, not to play close," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "Duke made a couple of great plays. We had a chance, but we didn't do a couple of things right down the stretch. That's my responsibility, but we'll work to get it right Saturday."

Trailing by 10 on three different occasions in the second half, and by 63-55 with 4:33 to go, Maryland twice cut its deficit to three and then got it down to 67-65 on a three-point play by sophomore guard Duane Simpkins with 1:59 to go.

But freshman forward Keith Booth got a little too eager trying for a steal, fouling Antonio Lang in the lane with 1:32 to go and, more significantly, eight seconds left on the 35-second clock. Hill then was fouled by Rhodes with 1:13 remaining, and the 6-foot-8 senior hit both ends of a one-and-one for a four-point lead.

"Our end-of-the-game clock management has been good all year, and we've won a lot of close games," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team won its fifth straight and finishes the regular season with a now-meaningless game against the fifth-ranked Tar Heels on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. "I think when you have success in those situations, you also have confidence."

Maryland's last chance came when Booth was fouled hard by Duke's backup center, Erik Meek, with 1:02 to go. Booth, an inconsistent free-throw shooter, came out of the game, saying later that he pulled a muscle in his leg. Williams put injunior Wayne Bristol, who missed the first and made the second of two free throws.

With their lead at three, the Blue Devils calmly worked the 35-second clock down to one before sophomore guard Chris Collins drove the lane and found Lang for a dunk with 28 seconds to go, putting Duke ahead by five. Maryland called timeout, with a play called for Simpkins to drive and kick it back out to Rhodes for a three. Rhodes missed.


"I should have penetrated a little more, so instead of taking a 22- or 23-footer, he would have had a 20-footer," said Simpkins. "It was my fault."

Said Williams: "We had a freshman [Booth] and two sophomores involved in that play, and they did a good job. We're still learning. But we can't use that [inexperience] as an excuse. We're going to be a young team the rest of the way. If it is [a difference] that's to their credit."

The difference last night was Hill. Aside from his game-high 19 points, the All-American from Reston, Va., also had eight assists, six rebounds and four blocked shots. He also got some help from the officials, who failed to call him for his third foul midway through the first half on a play that ended with Mario Lucas being called for traveling. He finished the game with two fouls.

Whether that call might have made a difference seemed moot by the end, because Maryland still had a chance.

But as happened so many times against the Blue Devils over theyears, the Terps didn't make the plays they needed to and Duke did. Not only Hill, but fellow seniors Lang (10 points, seven rebounds) and Marty Clark (10 points).

"I'm starting to cry because I know Grant's not going to be here soon," said Krzyzewski.


There will be no tears shed at Maryland.