COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland's fragile grip on an NCAA tournament bid grew a little more tenuous last night when Duke's Ricky Price threw in an arching three-point shot to beat the Terps at the buzzer, 77-75.
The Terps must win their final two regular-season games at home against Virginia on Saturday and Florida State on Monday, or face the prospect of an NIT berth.
"If we can win the next two, we deserve to be in the tournament with our strength of schedule and our power rating," said Maryland coach Gary Williams.
"We were in with 16 [wins] three years ago. I hope to do the same thing this year. Our work is cut out for us."
The Terps are 26th in this week's RPI rankings, and have the fourth-toughest schedule in the country.
But if they don't finish 8-8 in the ACC, they are not likely to get into the NCAAs.
Duke, meanwhile, clinched the fourth seed in next week's ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., with its fifth straight victory. The Blue Devils (18-10, 8-7), who got 27 points from Chris Collins for the third straight game, are 31st in the RPI with the 16th-toughest schedule.
Maryland was protecting a 75-74 lead after Keith Booth hit six of eight free throws in the final three minutes. Then the game took a decisive turn with two plays that both went against Maryland in the final 10 seconds.
With 9.5 left, Booth missed the second of two free throws. Duke's Taymon Domzalski rebounded and got the ball to Collins, who raced upcourt.
At midcourt, Maryland's Duane Simpkins tipped the ball away from Collins. At the other end, Booth tried to keep the ball from going out of bounds and call timeout simultaneously.
The Terps thought he succeeded, but the officials said he stepped on the end line before beginning his out-of-bounds leap and Duke was awarded the ball with 3.6 seconds left.
"I got a great look [at the play]," Maryland's Exree Hipp said. "I still say he wasn't out of bounds. It was a heads-up play, a good play on Keith's part."
Mario Lucas, who added 12 points, concurred. "I thought he made a great play. He clearly jumped in the air and called timeout. They said he stepped on the line before he jumped, though."
Williams wasn't sure.
"I don't know the situation over there," he said. "I wasn't on the baseline. I saw him call timeout, but it was a bang-bang play."
Booth didn't question the call.
"The ref had a good angle," he said. "What I tried to do was get possession and call timeout. I guess I was on the line. But the game wasn't over then."
Instead of getting the ball and a timeout, Maryland had to defend Duke's desperation shot.
In the end, it couldn't.
Stan Brunson threw a long inbounds pass to Steve Wojciechowski near midcourt, and the former Cardinal Gibbons star dribbled left before spotting Price down in the left corner.
Price was wide open after a double screen.
"Inbounding the ball against Maryland is an adventure," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "In the last three seconds, it's even tougher."
At the last moment, Krzyzewski sent the 6-foot-7 Brunson to the baseline to inbounds the ball instead of 6-5 Price because he is taller. Price was the first option on the play, and Collins, who scored 23 of his points in the second half, was the second.
Neither of those options opened up, though.
"Stan was having a hard time getting it in," Wojciechowski said. "Our first option didn't work. I saw Taymon underneath. I didn't think I could get it over Exree. I saw Ricky and he hit the shot."
Price's rain-maker brought a deluge down on Maryland.
"I knew it was good as soon as I released it," Price said. "I shoot the ball with a high arc sometimes."
In the beginning, it didn't look like a nail-biter. Johnny Rhodes got Maryland off to a raucous start in the nationally televised game by scoring the game's first seven points. Maryland hit its first five shots to take an 11-2 lead to the delight of the sellout crowd.
But, for Maryland, it didn't last. The hot shooting or the lead. The first half ended in a 31-31 tie.
And a close second half only precluded what has become a common finish in this rivalry -- Duke has won 23 of the past 26 against Maryland.
Booth finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Rhodes scored 18 and had two steals to move within one of tying all-time leader Chris Corchiani of North Carolina State, who had 328.
"We've got to keep our heads up," Hipp said. "If we win the next two games, we deserve to get in the NCAA tournament. And we still have the ACC tournament."