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

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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

College Basketball Talk’s Top 25: Xavier, Syracuse, Texas A&M are big winners

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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At this point in the season, I think it is still too early to solely base rankings off of on-the-court results. That’s why you’re going to find North Carolina higher in this poll than likely anywhere else on the internet. Until we see what the Tar Heels look like with Marcus Paige — which, mind you, could happen on Tuesday night when they host Maryland — I’m not sure I’m ready to drop them, even for a team that looks as good as Michigan State or Kansas.

The biggest risers of the week: Xavier and Syracuse, who both won big tournaments over the Thanksgiving holiday. They also both happened to knock off rivals in the process, as the Musketeers blew out Dayton while the Orange knocked off UConn.

1. Kentucky (6-0, LW: No. 1): Kentucky got a real scare over the weekend, as Tyler Ulis hyper-extended his elbow against South Florida. He appears to be just fine.

2. Maryland (6-0, LW: No. 2): The Terps have not looked great early on this season, but they’re going to get a real test on Tuesday when they visit UNC.

3. North Carolina (5-1, LW: No. 3): Here’s to hoping Marcus Paige is healthy when Maryland comes to visit this week.

4. Michigan State (7-0, LW: No. 4): Denzel Valentine has been sensational this season, but the most impressive part of Michigan State’s win over Providence on Sunday was that they did it while Valentine was in foul trouble and struggling to shoot the ball.

5. Kansas (4-1, LW: No. 6): The Jayhawks had a pretty good week. They won Maui, they blew out a good Vanderbilt team, Wayne Selden showed up and Cheick Diallo got eligible. I hope Bill Self bought some lottery tickets.

6. Villanova (6-0, LW: No. 5): I really like the Wildcats this year, I do, but I dropped them a spot for two reasons: 1. I thought Kansas was better entering the season and the Jayhawks looked terrific this week in Maui, before Cheick Diallo played, and 2. Villanova hasn’t beaten anyone of note yet. Next Monday they get Oklahoma. We’ll know then.

7. Iowa State (5-0, LW: No. 7): The Cyclones are 5-0 with wins over three high-major programs, but their best win may be the win over Chattanooga. I think we’ll really get a feel for how good this team next month, when, in a 12-day stretch, they get Iowa, Northern Iowa and Cincinnati on the road.

8. Oklahoma (4-0, LW: No. 8): The Sooners put a whooping on Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon, the kind of performance that made it very clear Oklahoma is a contender this season and Wisconsin is not. Buddy Hield has been terrific, but so has big man Ryan Spangler.

9. Duke (6-1, LW: No. 10): The loss to Kentucky continues to look like the aberration in Duke’s early season schedule, as they rolled over Utah State and Yale this week. The big news: Luke Kennard has finally found his rhythm, as he scored 22 points and went 4-for-5 from the floor on Sunday.

10. Virginia (5-1, LW: No. 11): Virginia has won four straight since their loss at GW, scoring at least 80 points in every game and never giving up more than 66. It’s not the stiffest of competition, but it should go to show you (like I said at the time) that the loss at GW said more about GW than Virginia.

11. Xavier (7-0, LW: No. 21)
12. Purdue (6-0, LW: No. 15)
13. Vanderbilt (5-1, LW: No. 16)
14. Miami (5-1, LW: No. 9)
15. Syracuse (6-0, LW: UR)
16. Texas A&M (6-1, LW: UR)
17. Gonzaga (4-1, LW: No. 17)
18. Oregon (5-0, LW: No. 25)
19. Cincinnati (7-0, LW: No. 20)
20. Baylor (4-1, LW: No. 22)
21. Butler (4-1, LW: No. 23)
22. UConn (4-2, LW: No. 18)
23. Providence (6-1, LW: UR)
24. West Virginia (6-0, LW: UR)
25. SMU (4-0, LW: UR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 12 Cal, No. 13 Arizona, No. 14 Indiana, No. 19 Notre Dame, No. 24 Wichita State

WEEKLY AWARDS: Denzel Valentine’s big week, Kansas makes a statement

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

In the title game of the Wooden Legacy, a game that was billed as a matchup between the two best players in college basketball — Valentine and Kris Dunn — Valentine was downright bad …

… by his standards. He finished with “just” 17 points, six assists and five boards. I say “just” because, in the previous two games of the tournament, the Spartan superstar averaged 30.5 points, 10.0 boards and 8.0 assists. He’s been, hands down, the best player in college basketball this season, and that didn’t change this week.


  • Ben Bentil, Providence: Kris Dunn is the guy that is going to get all the national praise, but it was Bentil’s emergence that was critical for the Friars. He averaged 21.7 points and 6.0 boards in three games in the Wooden Legacy, carrying PC when Dunn was battling foul issues.
  • Wayne Selden, Kansas: The highlight of Selden’s week was scoring 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the Maui title game win over No. 19 Vanderbilt. For the week, he averaged 19.3 points and shot 12-for-17 from three.
  • Justin Robinson, Monmouth: Robinson averaged 25.7 points in three games for Monmouth at the Advocare Invitational. The Hawks beat No. 17 Notre Dame and USC in the process, only losing to Dayton by three.
  • Justin Jackson, North Carolina: Remember when Justin Jackson was struggling? He averaged 21.5 points, 9.0 boards and 5.0 assists in wins over Northwestern and Kansas State. That came on the heels of a 25-point performance in the loss at Northern Iowa.
  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette: Ellenson notched three straight double-doubles for the Golden Eagles this week, which included 16 points and 11 boards in a win over Ben Simmons and LSU.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas headed out to Maui as a team that many weren’t really sure what to make of. They looked good against Michigan State for 30 minutes, then they blew that game as Denzel Valentine went bananas. They had as much depth as anyone in the country, but Brannen Greene was suspended, Cheick Diallo was ineligible and Wayne Selden was the most notable of a handful of talented players that had been somewhere between inconsistent and ineffective this year.

That all changed in Maui — well, other than Greene’s suspension — as Kansas rolled over Chaminade, UCLA and Vanderbilt to bring home the tournament title. Blowing out Chaminade was to be expected. But beating down a talented UCLA team? Dominating a very good Vanderbilt squad? That’s the Kansas we’ve been hoping to see show up for a few years now. The question is whether or not it’s sustainable, and at least on paper, it appears to be. Selden’s shooting percentages will come back to earth, but his raw numbers are less important than his confidence and aggressiveness. Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham are going to continue to take pressure off of each other in the back court. Perry Ellis isn’t going anywhere.

I questioned whether or not Kansas was truly one of the nation’s elite when the season started. I think they answered that question for me.


  • Xavier: The Musketeers not only won the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, they blew out in-state — and former Atlantic 10 — rival Dayton in the finals.
  • Syracuse: The Orange are going to be a factor in the ACC this season. How much? I don’t know. But after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis by knocking off No. 18 UConn and No. 25 Texas A&M, it’s clear they’re going to be involved all season.
  • Northeastern: The Huskies picked up a road win against No. 15 Miami on this buzzer-beating jumper.
  • Arkansas-Little Rock: The Trojans picked up their second huge road win of the year, going into Tulsa and knocking off the Golden Hurricane. They’re now 5-0 on the season, having also won at SDSU.
  • Tournament winners: West Virginia knocked off Richmond and San Diego State to bring home the Las Vegas Invitational title, No. 24 Cincinnati beat Nebraska and George Washington in the Barclays Center Classic and Marquette knocked off LSU and Arizona State to win the Legends Classic.


Tuesday: No. 2 Maryland at No. 9 North Carolina, 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Butler at No. 24 Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday: Louisville at No. 3 Michigan State, 7:15 p.m.
Wednesday: No. 13 Indiana at No. 6 Duke, 9:15 p.m.
Saturday: No. 11 Arizona at No. 10 Gonzaga, 3:15 p.m.