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It's a Wild Duke Chase

Arizona Floors Defending Champion, Blue Devils Rally Past Maryland

Game 2: Williams, Battier and Boozer help Duke stage another comeback against Terrapins.


MINNEAPOLIS — The Duke-Maryland Chronicles, a.k.a. the Neverending Story, did reach a conclusion here Saturday.

But Chapter Four in the seasonlong saga will satisfy only Duke fans, who saw the conclusion as inevitable.

No matter how many times they play, or how long the game takes, or how far they fall behind, the Blue Devils usually come out ahead. They did again Saturday, recovering from a 22-point first-half deficit to win 95-84, before 45,406 at the Metrodome.

Duke (34-4), which got 25 points from Shane Battier, 23 points from Jason Williams and 19 big points off the bench by Carlos Boozer, will face Arizona on Monday for the national championship.

"I've had better teams, but when it comes to heart, this team is right up there," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Maryland (25-11) has no heart left. Duke shattered it for the third time in the four games they played this season. Each time they lost, the Terrapins had a double-digit lead on the Blue Devils, but each time they were beaten down in the second half.

Their leading scorer, Juan Dixon was a microcosm of the Terrapins' frustration Saturday. Dixon had 19 points, but 16 came in the first half. He made only one of eight shots in the final 20 minutes.

Terence Morris and Lonny Baxter each had 10 points.

"I thought we played really hard and got off to a great start," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "Then Duke came back and pulled it out in the second half.

"It hurts to lose. But there will be a time when I can look back and really appreciate the team I got to coach this year."

Duke had a scary moment with 3:35 left in the game. Chris Duhon, trying to intercept a pass at midcourt, collided with Maryland's Steve Blake and both players crashed to the hardwood floor. Duhon had to be helped off the court and Blake also left the game, but under his own power.

Both returned in the final two minutes.

"We think Chris had a mild concussion," Krzyzewski said. "We'll keep him under observation tonight, but we think he'll be OK."

Maryland looked to be more than OK in the beginning. The Terrapins were sky high at the introductions, leaping into the air for chest bumps, while the Duke players simply trotted out to the court. Then Maryland jumped out to a 12-4 start in the first four minutes.

Duke saw this act before in the ACC tournament, when Maryland scored the game's first 10 points. Besides, this season, having an early lead was of no benefit; in the three previous games between the teams, whoever led at halftime wound up the loser.

Still, Maryland kept turning up the pressure. Blake was repeatedly penetrating the middle of the Blue Devils' defense and passing off for easy baskets. On defense, the Terrapins weren't giving Duke the room to launch their three-point attack or work free inside for higher percentage shots.

By the 6:56 mark of the first half, Maryland's lead had swelled to 39-17 on Blake's three-pointer. Even with another half to play, Duke was in trouble, not only on the scoreboard but with the odds; at what point do the Terrapins get a lead they won't blow?

By halftime the Blue Devils had worked the deficit down to 49-38, but even that was deceiving. Duke could have cut Maryland's lead to six with 30 seconds left, but Boozer missed two free throws. And when Dixon nailed a three-pointer with three seconds remaining, it seemed to restore some of the momentum that Maryland had been losing during the last five minutes of the half.

If Duke was going to make a second-half run, the Blue Devils would have to shoot better than 36% from the field (including two of 12 from three-point range) and get Jason Williams involved offensively. Duke's leading scorer in the tournament had made only one of seven shots and scored four points.

Then Krzyzewski stepped in.

First he told the team to quit worrying about the deficit and just play.

"I was disappointed, especially with the first 12 minutes," Krzyzewski said. "We were playing really young. Maryland is very good, and they have a comfort level against us from having played us so much. We should have had a comfort level against them.

"I told them to quit doing so many set plays and just go play. They had been down by 20 and couldn't play any worse. So what was there to worry about, losing by 40?"

Krzyzewski also swapped his guard assignments, shifting Williams from Blake to Dixon, and Duhon from Dixon to Blake. Dixon shut off Blake's ability to penetrate, turning Maryland's offense from smooth to sluggish. And Williams was able to find his scoring touch.

"Overall we did a good job on Jason," Gary Williams said. "But great players also step up at critical times."

Duke spent the beginning of the second half working on the rest of the Maryland lead and the Terrapins' collective, quivering psyche. Twice Jason Williams got the Blue Devils within two, and each time Maryland responded. Duhon then delivered a three-point play to make the score 62-61. Maryland's Mike Mardesich, however, tipped in a missed shot to put the Terps back up by three.

Williams' only three-pointer of the game wiped out the last of Maryland's advantage and gave the Blue Devils a 73-72 lead with 6:51 left. It was Duke's first lead of the game. It was up to the Terrapins to complete yet another collapse against their ACC rival.

But that's usually how the story went for Maryland against Duke this season.


How They Compared

A look at statistics from the four Duke-Maryland games this season:


DUKE MD. Points 89.3 88.3 FG Shooting 113-286 130-271 FG % 39.5 48.0 3-Pt. Shooting 39-124 23-62 3-Pt. % 31.5 37.1 Rebounding 192 145 Rebound Avg. 48 36.3 Bench Scoring 61 105 Bench Average 15.3 26.3 Victories 3 1


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