COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — It isn’t often that Duke loses a basketball game, and losing streaks are an even rarer occurrence for the Blue Devils.
Eager to avoid its first skid in nearly two years, No. 5 Duke played with great purpose and determination in an 80-62 victory over Maryland on Wednesday night.
Kyle Singler scored 22 points, Nolan Smith had 21, and the Blue Devils bounced back from Sunday’s lopsided defeat against St. John’s with one of their best performances of the season.
“The last game we played was an embarrassing loss,” Singler said. “To come on the road again and win was a big thing for this team.”
Playing in front of a boisterous sellout crowd against one of their biggest rivals, the Blue Devils relied on their two best players to dispatch the Terrapins. Singler and Smith combined to score Duke’s first 16 points of the second half to make it 56-43 with 12 minutes left.
That proved to be too much a deficit for the cold-shooting Terrapins to overcome. Maryland got within five points, but could get no closer.
“You have to really dig down deep against a good team, and then when you do, to get over the top that’s when it gets tough,” Terrapins coach Gary Williams said.
The victory gave Duke (20-2, 7-1 ACC) a season sweep of Maryland (14-8, 4-4). Duke has won eight of the last nine games between the teams and four of the last six at Comcast Center.
“We may have played our best game since Kyree was hurt tonight,” said Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, referring to a toe injury to guard Kyree Irving on Dec. 4. “I think we had to because Maryland was primed to play an outstanding game. They were coming off three wins. Their crowd is really great for them.”
Duke was up for the challenge. The Blue Devils haven’t dropped two straight since Feb. 11-15, 2009, to North Carolina and Boston College.
“This shows a lot of character,” Krzyzewski said. “To come on the road three days later is really a huge thing for our kids.”
Jordan Williams had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Terrapins, who remain in search of a signature victory.
“We don’t have a quality win under our belt,” Jordan Williams said. “We’ve beat some tough teams but we don’t have a win over a ranked opponent that we need to get to the tournament.”
The Terps shot 40 percent and went 2 for 9 from 3-point range.
Maryland provided its fans some hope with an 8-0 run that cut the deficit to 56-51, but Duke answered with a 10-3 surge that included a pair of 3-pointers by Andre Dawkins.
That gave the Blue Devils enough of a cushion to provide Krzyzewski with his 50th career win against the Terrapins (50-21).
Singler went 10 for 15 from the floor and moved into 19th place on the ACC career scoring list. He has scored 2,166 points over three-plus seasons.
A year ago, an inspired home win over Duke set off a wild, destructive celebration by Maryland fans along U.S. Route 1. The school planned a bonfire to avoid a repeat performance, but the defeat was enough to sober the mood of the student body — and Gary Williams.
“Just very disappointed,” he said. “Early on in the game I didn’t think we were playing with the kind of energy necessary to play a team as good as Duke. Obviously they were going to come back from what happened up at St. John’s.”
Duke made half its 12 attempts from 3-point range and got nine points apiece from Singler and Mason Plumlee in taking a 40-33 halftime lead.
After going up 16-15, Maryland went more than six minutes without a field goal. But the Terrapins went 13 for 15 at the foul line in the first half, including a 7-for-8 performance by Williams, a 52 percent free throw shooter.
The opening 10 minutes featured five ties and eight lead changes. Duke trailed by a point before Singler drilled a 3-pointer, Plumlee hit a jumper in the lane and Smith added a three-point play to make it 23-16.
Minutes later, Seth Curry made a pair of 3-pointers in a 13-4 run that put the Blue Devils ahead 38-23.
It was 40-26 before the Terrapins closed the half with a 7-0 spurt, capped by a last-second drive by Adrian Bowie that rejuvenated the crowd.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)