I'm not going to ask you to relive the play by play of Maryland's disappointing 84-63 loss at Duke Monday night. Those masochists among you who want to do that can read or reread John's excellent recap. Instead, I'm going to share my thoughts on what happened, ask you to read some analysis and put the game in some perspective.
The game opened with both teams a little jittery, but once they got into a flow, most of the first half was played with great intensity and at a frenetic pace. It seemed unlikely that both teams could maintain that level of play for the full forty minutes. One team did, one didn't. Unfortunately for Maryland fans, the team that maintained its intensity was Duke.
I'll come back to this idea in a bit and I want to take a look at some of the statistics but before I do that, let me get this out of the way: This was a well officiated game. The crew of Eric Brewton, Brian Enterline, and Maj Forsberg let the teams play and the game flow. As in every game, there are probably a few calls that were missed, but on the whole this was a players game and the team that played the best won.
One can point to many statistics that impacted the game, such as Duke's 44-37 edge in rebounding or the Blue Devils outscoring the Terps 36-28 in the paint while at the same time making 61.5 percent of their three point shots. But to my mind, here's the most telling stat: Maryland had 14 more shot attempts than Duke but the Blue Devils made 7 more field goals than the Terps. As Coach Frese said, "When you score sixty-three points on the road, you're not going to win a lot of games. You've got to be able to solve something on one end of the floor or the other."
Here are some things you need to help put this game in perspective. Duke last played a week ago, losing 89-78 to North Carolina, so not only did they have a week to get their legs back, they had a week to stew over a loss to their principal rival. Second, although both teams start three seniors, a junior and a sophomore round out Duke's starting five, while two freshmen start for Maryland. A deeper look reveals that Duke's freshmen and sophomores accounted for 64 of the two hundred available minutes of playing time. For Maryland, that number is 102. As Frese said, "I thought their experience let them show a lot of character bouncing back. They played like a veteran group. We've got to grow up." Later she reiterated the point, "Credit Duke. I thought they were tremendous tonight. I thought they played with a lot of energy and a lot of poise. They were really consistent all night."
So what went wrong? It started with Duke's match up and 1-3-1 zone. With 6'3" Haley Peters and 6'1" Tricia Liston filling the wings and and very long, quick , and active 6'3" Elizabeth Wilson patrolling the back they are very long. Though Frese said she thought the Terps got some good looks on the perimeter, with the press table right at court side, I was able to see the action close up in the second half. The Maryland players were frequently hesitant, unable to catch the ball in a triple threat position, and when they did launch a shot it often looked rushed and out of rhythm. Lexie Brown confirmed this after the game, "I let them get into my head a little bit. That top part of the zone is extremely long and they did make it really difficult to get the shot off."
The Terps couldn't maintain their intensity. Throughout most of the first half, my notes repeatedly stressed the evenness of the game. For example, at the under eight media time out, Maryland led 20-19 with Moseley going to the line to shoot two free throws. They held a 14-13 edge in rebounds, had turned the ball over 3 times to Duke's 4, and both teams had scored ten points in the paint. That continued for another two minutes then Duke went on a 10-0 run to grab a 34-27 lead that the'd never relinquish.
This isn't to say that the Terps showed no fight. After Katie Rutan's jumper with seventeen minutes to paly cut Duke's lead to three, Duke scored seven straight to get the lead into double digits for the first time. Then Alyssa Thomas, who struggled mightily early in the game, began to find some rhythm and her traditional three point play with 12:48 remaining brought Maryland back within five. Thomas also scored the next two baskets and the Terps were still within five with under eleven minutes left. The big problem was that the Terps weren't getting stops on defensive end. And when you can't get stops, a good team will make you pay. And this is where things went south very quickly.
Duke broke the Maryland press and Tricia Liston hit a wide open three. Then Alexis Jones hit back to back threes and in just a handful of possessions the Terrapins' deficit went from five to fourteen. Though Jones shot well above her 39 percent season average, most of her shots were not aggressively challenged. On the other end of the court, most of Maryland's three point attempts were aggressively challenged.
Once they got down by fourteen, the young Maryland squad appeared to lose their poise and though they went to a press that created several turnovers, they didn't capitalize often enough and never seriously challenged again.
The Terps will have to put this one behind them quickly as they return to Comcast to take on a talented though fading Florida State team on Thursday.