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Hard work pays off for Terrapins in 83-81 victory over No. 2 Blue Devils

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. –

Losing to Duke on Saturday night was not an option for the Maryland Terrapins.

Saturday’s game against the No. 2 Blue Devils was as “must-win” as “must-win” gets.

It was simple. In order to have any shot at earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, any shot at all, they just had to beat Duke.

But beating Duke isn’t an easy thing to do. The Blue Devils entered the game with just two losses in 24 contests this year, both coming against teams ranked inside the top-25. Maryland had just one victory against a top-25 team and lost to the Blue Devils by 20 in their first meeting.

But the Terrapins put in the hard work necessary to pull off a season-saving victory.

“It has been a hard week,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, who was emotionally drained following the Terrapins’ thrilling 83-81 victory over No. 2 Duke on Saturday night in College Park, Md.

“I worked them really hard this week and challenged them in a lot of different areas. I told them we don’t have to do anything extraordinary. We just have to play to our level. And that’s what we did. We continued to compete.”

The Terps had not played since last Sunday, when they squandered an oppurtunity at home to beat a quality Virginia team, losing 80-69. Teams only get so many real days of physical practice. With travel and scouting and walk-throughs, teams don’t get too many high-intensity practices on a weekly basis.

Maryland’s week off couldn’t have come at a better time. Maryland needed this win, and put all their available resources into getting the win.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski thought that Maryland’s extra preparation made a difference. “I thought the week of preparation they had for this game was huge. They were fresh, they were determined and it was a tough game for us to play.”

Consider this. Maryland finished with 26 turnovers yet still won the game. They committed 26 turnovers against the No. 2 team in the nation, yet still won.

I’ll say it again: 26 turnovers.

“[Coach] said to just play through [the turnovers]. That’s a big test of your maturity, to go through the next play. I just tried to have amnesia, and tried to play every time,” said Seth Allen, who finished with 17 points and made two fouls shots with two seconds remaining to give the Terrapins a two point lead.

See, the only way a team can win a game in which they commit 26 turnovers is to outcompete their opposition. And that’s exactly what the Terps did.

The Terps won because they competed. They grabbed 40 rebounds, had seven steals and blocked six shots. Duke grabbed just 20 rebounds, and blocked one shot.

A less determined Maryland team would have settled for jumpers. Instead the Terps got after it, attacked the paint, and maximized scoring opportunities. Maryland went to the foul line 34 times on Saturday, and made 25 of the attempts. Duke went to the foul line just 21 times and made only 15.

“I don’t know what 14 times 500 is, but we shot that many free throws this week,” Said Turgeon. “The key was that we got to the foul line. We haven’t shot 34 free throws in a long time. We drove the ball and were aggressive and got to the line.”

Alex Len, who finished with a team-high 19 points, was aggressive down low, and was rewarded with eight trips to the foul line. He finished 7-for-8. Len dominated his one-on-one matchup with National Player of the Year candidate Mason Plumlee.

“I challenged Alex about being Mason Plumlee’s little brother. He treats you like a little brother. He said ‘I’m tired of being a little brother, it’s time for us to step up and act like on of the big guys on the block.'”

In their first meeting, back on January 26th, Plumlee finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds. On Saturday night he finished with four points and three rebounds.

This was a game that Maryland had to win. They needed this win. They didn’t just want to beat Duke, they had to beat Duke, and their play on Saturday expressed their desire.

They wanted a win and they needed a win, so they physically took it from Duke. It’s not always the best solution, but sometimes it beats the alternative.

There was no alternative for Maryland on Saturday night.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.