The fans are sick of hearing the term "they battled tough," but the statement never rang truer than on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The odds were against Maryland. Duke possessed more talent, a deeper, more proven bench, and a fairly consistent outside shot. While most from the outside believed a Duke win was inevitable, the Maryland Terrapins came within a good bounce of winning this game, something that didn't seem imaginable in the first half.
At times this season, confidence seemed to be lacking on a team that simply couldn't piece it together. While the team still hasn't completely pieced it together, there has been a shift on this team, both over the course of the last two weeks and in this game alone.
The Terps battled tougher than in any game this season on Saturday night. When the game seemed to be slipping away at times, Maryland found a way to get a few baskets to squash the momentum Duke had been building. Fans will remember earlier in the season when things went wrong, they went very wrong, especially against Florida State in their first meeting. Against a tough team, the Terps refused to go away. The players care. They want to win the game badly, and it was never more evident than when Charles Mitchell was laying on the ground in disbelief when his potential game-winning shot bounced off the rim.
On Saturday night, Dez Wells took over in the second half and once again answered any and all leadership questions, scoring all 17 of his points. Wells seemed like the player everyone knew him to be, bullying defenders, making tough shots, and eliciting energy. The most telling moment of Wells' leadership was at the end of the game. Seeing a teammate down after missing the shot, Wells went over, picked him up and talked to him. To see Wells do that at the end of the game, and talk up his teammates during timeouts; that is the pinnacle of leadership.
While the win wasn't there for the Terps, there was a level of confidence shown from the team that hadn't been there. Duke is one of the better teams in the country, and the Terps never backed down. Jake Layman hit shots, Dez Wells took over when needed, and Charles Mitchell battled all night.
The name of the game is winning, and losing is never a good thing, but the Terps are showing that they aren't a pushover. They battled tough and with one bounce, everyone would be talking about the great effort shown. Instead, the story is the same. The Terps simply couldn't pull it off.
This could be a game to build on for Maryland, and the hope for many is that they will. While Maryland could have executed better, they certainly couldn't have battled any harder.
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