DURHAM, N.C. - He hoped to see focus. He hoped to see passion. And above all else last night, Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams wanted to see his team walk into hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium and find the confidence that has seemingly been missing for much of the past month.
The Terrapins found all three things in the unlikeliest of places with a performance that conjured up memories from their Atlantic Coast Conference tournament run last season.
Riding a huge second half and another take-charge effort from junior forward Nik Caner-Medley, the Terps knocked the second-ranked Blue Devils from the ranks of unbeaten with a 75-66 victory before 9,314 stunned fans.
"That was all about the players," said Williams, whose team improved to 12-5, 3-3 in the ACC. "We've struggled a little bit with our identity, but we do have pride in our program. After the N.C. State game, I think our players took it upon ourselves to give a good effort. We played with a lot of confidence down the stretch."
Maryland, which was coming off an embarrassing 16-point loss to N.C. State at home on Sunday, trailed by as many as eight points in the second half, before taking the game over down the stretch in a place that Duke usually gets the opposition to fold.
Caner-Medley did it with his scoring, Chris McCray held J.J. Redick to seven second-half points, and Travis Garrison and Ekene Ibekwe, who were both demoted from the starting lineup for the first time this season, put the win away with their free-throw shooting.
The Terps, who played the last 1:54 without Caner-Medley, who twisted his ankle contesting an eventual missed layup from Redick, took a 66-64 lead at the 1:21 mark on an Ibekwe layup. They never relinquished it, closing the game on an 11-2 run and sealing the victory with a kiss as John Gilchrist pecked Garrison on the forehead when the outcome was decided.
"I was real emotional on the bench but my teammates played with so much heart," said Caner-Medley, who finished with a game-high 25 points on 8-for-13 shooting, and at one point, scored nine of the Terps' first 11 points of the second half. The junior said his ankle was fine and he'd be ready for the Terps' next practice. "They came up huge down the stretch."
The Terps' victory set off a celebration in College Park, where about 1,500 students ran into the streets to celebrate. The students were met by more than 100 police officers in riot gear, as well as a half-dozen officers on horseback. No one was injured and there were no reports of vandalism, although a shop window was broken.
It was only the sixth home loss for Duke (15-1, 5-1) since the 1999-2000 season. The Terps now take credit for three of them. The Blue Devils, who were just one of three unbeaten teams before last night, were in the midst of their third best start in the program's 100-year history.
Said Blue Devils' coach Mike Krzyzewski: "I thought Maryland played better than we did. Caner-Medley was great, and I thought Gilchrist really led his team well. ... They're good. They were the team that deserved to win tonight."
"Coach [Williams] knows what it takes to beat Duke," said Gilchrist, who had one of his finest all-around games of the season with 10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. "This is a huge momentum swing for us. This is the type of game that can erase all of those earlier losses."
Gilchrist was primarily referring to the 34-point loss to North Carolina and the 15-point defeat by Wake Forest earlier this month. But the Terps had other motivation. Williams felt that people around College Park had written them off.
Caner-Medley was taunted by the Cameron Crazies from the moment he stepped on the court for shoot-around, and he and Williams felt that the crowd got much too personal.
The Terps were also buoyed by a pep talk from three former players, who dropped by practice unannounced on Tuesday. Current Washington Wizards Steve Blake, Juan Dixon and Laron Profit talked to the Maryland players about winning and what the Terps' jersey meant to them.
"They said all the right things," said Williams, "but it's up to the players to use that. I'm very impressed with the guys because this wasn't easy."
In getting the marquee win that the Terps lacked to this point, Maryland made 20 of 24 free throws and shot just under 49 percent from the field in the decisive second half, when they outscored the Blue Devils 45-32.
The Terps, who weren't overtaken by Duke until the 4:41 mark of the first half, regained the lead in the second half with 13:42 to play on a McCray layup.
It was 52-52 after John Gilchrist hit a tough jumper inside with 11:02 to play, but Redick then knocked down his third three-pointer and exhorted the Cameron Crazies to make some more news.
Maryland, however, responded. Given a tiny bit of room by Redick, Caner-Medley pulled up from NBA range and scored to pull the Terps within 58-57 with 8:38 remaining.
"I just think [Nik] overpowered us a few times," said Krzyzewski. "If there was one thing that won the game, it was that his desire to win was great."
Ibekwe hit one of two free throws and Garrison dunked a nifty pass from Caner-Medley for a 62-58 Terps advantage.
Redick stole the ball and was coming down the court for a game-tying attempt at a layup but Caner-Medley contested it, causing a wild shot. But Caner-Medley landed awkwardly on his left ankle and left the game.
Shavlik Randolph tied the game at 64, putting back Shelden Williams' missed free throw, but Ibekwe then scored inside to help the Terps regain a 66-64 lead with 1:21 to play.
But Garrison and Ibekwe then knocked down two free throws and Maryland's lead swelled to 70-64.
"We definitely needed this," said McCray, who scored all seven of his points in the second half, and held Redick (20 points) to 7-for-21 shooting. "We knew we had the talent to play with anybody and this proves it."
Running with Devils
Maryland has beaten Duke at least once in nine of the past 11 seasons. The Terps' wins during that span:
Date Site Score
1/28/95 Cole 74-72
3/1/95 Cameron 94-92
3/8/96 Greensboro-a 82-69
1/26/97 Cole 74-70
2/9/00 Cameron 98-87
2/27/01 Cameron 91-80
2/17/02 Cole 87-73
1/18/03 Comcast 87-72
3/14/04 Greensboro-a 95-87*
1/26/05 Cameron 75-66
a-ACC tournament; *-overtime
Next for Maryland
Matchup: No. 22 Georgia Tech (11-5, 2-3) vs. Maryland (12-5, 3-3)
Site: Comcast Center, College Park
When: Sunday, 5:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)