COLLEGE PARK -- Ricky Price threw in a three-point rainmaker from the left corner to propel Duke to a 77-75 victory over Maryland at the buzzer last night in a tense Atlantic Coast Conference game at sold-out Cole Field House.
The loss was a critical blow to Maryland's NCAA tournament hopes. The Terps fell to sixth place in the ACC at 6-8, and dropped to 14-11 overall. They must win their final two regular-season games -- at home against Virginia and Florida State -- to have any chance at the NCAAs.
Maryland was protecting a 75-74 lead in the closing seconds when Keith Booth was ruled out of bounds trying to save a loose ball. Maryland's Duane Simpkins had tipped the ball away from Duke's Chris Collins at midcourt, and Booth tried to catch the ball and call timeout simultaneously.
Instead of getting the ball and a timeout, the Terps had to defend Duke's desperation shot.
In the end, they couldn't.
Stan Brunson inbounded the ball to Steve Wojciechowski near midcourt, and the former Cardinal Gibbons star dribbled to his left before firing a pass to Price in the left corner.
Price, wide open after a double screen, hit all net.
"I knew it was good as soon as I shot it," Price said. "I shoot the ball with a high arc sometimes."
Duke (18-10, 8-7) clinched the fourth seed in the ACC tournament with its fifth straight win.
Chris Collins scored 27 points for the third straight game -- 23 in the second half -- to lead Duke. Johnny Rhodes and Booth each had 18 for the Terps.
"If we can win the next two, we deserve to be in the tournament with our strength of schedule [listed as fourth toughest in the country] and our power rating [No. 26]," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We were in with 16 [wins] three years ago. I hope we do the same thing this year. We've got our work cut out for us."
The Terps collectively felt Booth had managed to call timeout and stay inbounds with 3.6 seconds left.
"I got a great look," said Exree Hipp. "I still say he wasn't out of bounds. It was a heads-up play. But they said he was out of bounds."
Mario Lucas said: "I thought he made a great play."
Booth didn't question the call, however.
"The ref had a good angle," he said. "What I tried to do was get possession and call timeout. I guess I was out. But the game wasn't over then."
Of Price's shot, Booth said, "We flew at him, but he made a great shot."
The Terps used a 10-2 run early in the second half to take a 43-40 lead, as Duke slipped quickly into foul trouble. Hipp scored seven points in the spurt, including a dunk off a pass from Duane Simpkins.
It was a three-point play -- basket and foul shot -- by Rhodes that put the Terps up, 41-40, with 16:56 left in the game.
Duke, meanwhile, was piling up fouls. In a span of less than 90 seconds, Taymon Domzalski, Jeff Capel and Greg Newton all picked up their third personals.
Then it was Booth's turn. The junior power forward scored three of Maryland's four baskets in an 8-0 run that produced a nine-point lead at 51-42.
When Duke got within 51-46 on baskets by Price and Collins, Maryland freshman Laron Profit answered with a three-pointer. That made it 54-46.
Three-pointers by Wojciechowski and Collins got Duke within 55-54 with less than 10 minutes remaining. Moments later, Booth picked up his fourth foul on a charge and left the game.
But Rhodes hit two big baskets for the Terps, the first on a pass from Simpkins and the second on a putback in a crowd. That made it a 59-55 lead.
The lead went to 63-57 on a three-pointer by Lucas. But Collins scored six straight Duke points and Domzalski hit a putback to get Duke a tie at 65.
Lucas and Capel traded baskets for a 67-67 tie.
Then Rhodes made another huge play for the Terps. He scored on a baseline drive and fouled out Newton on the play. Rhodes missed the foul shot and the Terps had a 69-67 lead with 4:18 to play.
Three free throws by Collins over two possessions gave Duke a 70-69 lead with 3:40 to play.
The Terps recaptured the lead as the parade to the foul line continued. Booth hit four straight free throws to put Maryland up, 73-70.
Capel hit a running one-hander and Collins two more free throws for a 74-73 Duke lead with 1:48 left.
Booth tied the game with 54 seconds left, hitting one of two free throws.
In the beginning, it didn't look like a nail-biter. 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.
In typical fashion, the Terps had scoring droughts of 4:10 and three minutes in the half, and that allowed Duke not only to catch up, but go ahead.
NOTES: Johnny Holliday, Maryland's play-by-play voice, missed last night's broadcast with bronchial pneumonia, and was replaced by John Wagner. . . . Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has a 26-10 all-time record against Maryland, the most wins he's recorded against any opponent.