COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland just couldn’t get anything going against Duke’s physical stifling defense.
For too many trips up the court, nothing fell for the No. 8 Terrapins against the fifth-ranked Blue Devils. Not the perimeter jumpers that the Blue Devils’ physical defensive shift forced the Terrapins to take and certainly not the long-range attempts that missed at a dizzying rate.
“The way we came out, we didn’t have maximum effort,” said Maryland’s Chloe Pavlech after the Terps shot 42.6 percent (26 for 61) from the field and 3 for 18 from 3-point range in a 75-59 loss Sunday afternoon. “So, obviously, the energy wasn’t there and a lot of our shots were short.”
Maryland had hoped to exploit the absence of injured Duke point guard Chelsea Gray and hand the visitors their first conference loss of the season. Instead, the Terps went scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes midway through the first half, allowing Duke to take charge and claim its fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.
“Tough night for us,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “Credit Duke. I thought they came in here ready to play. I thought they shot the ball really well. Their physicality, it’s hard to match on the glass, and they did a really good job.”
The Terrapins, who had won three straight games since a 71-56 loss at Duke on Feb. 11, were never able to establish their running game.
“I thought they had a great game plan,” Frese said. “We became a jump-shooting team and I thought we took too many shots from the perimeter. We settled.”
While Maryland wondered how things unraveled so quickly, Duke celebrated another ACC title and a season-series sweep of the Terrapins (22-5, 13-3).
“It certainly is an honor to be the regular-season champion,” said Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie. “I think that’s the hardest one to win because it says a team has gone through a season — again, with injury or other things happening — and really been consistent. I think that’s really a special thing for our team.”
Alexis Jones, Haley Peters and Tricia Liston each added 15 points for the Blue Devils (26-1, 16-0), who won their 10th straight game. Duke improved to 6-1 against ranked opponents and more than compensated for the absence of Gray.
he Blue Devils won their second straight game without Gray, the All-American who sustained a season-ending dislocated right kneecap Feb. 17 against Wake Forest. The win gave the Blue devils a 40-39 advantage in the all-time series.
“This team has really grown tough and resilient,” said McCallie.
In the middle of Sunday’s victory was Jones, a freshman called upon to fill in for Gray whose point total represented a career high.
“I wouldn’t say (it was) a coming-out party,” Jones said. “I’ve been really humbled and just learning from the juniors. … Just take the role of listening to them and also feeding off my energy.”
McCallie said Jones “went to another level” against the Terrapins, scoring 13 second-half points.
“To have a freshman point guard come into this environment … and do what she did is almost unheard of, really,” the coach said.
Tianna Hawkins had 16 points and nine rebounds for Maryland. Alyssa Thomas added 14 points for the Terrapins, who shot 34.8 percent from 3-point range entering the game.
Four Blue Devils scored during a 9-0 run midway through the first half, when Maryland went cold from the floor, failing to score in more than 6 1/2 minutes.
“We can’t have the lapses that we had this game,” Hawkins said, adding that the Terrapins weren’t physical enough during that stretch. “We have to give maximum effort.”
Liston had 10 first-half points and Duke led 37-25 at halftime.
What began as an up-tempo defensive struggle turned quickly after a baseline jumper by Hawkins put Maryland up 11-10 with 15:26 remaining in the first half.
Richa Jackson’s basket started the Blue Devils on a 9-0 burst, as the Terps missed their next six shots from the floor and committed three turnovers before Thomas’ jumper halted the run.
Peters nailed a 3-pointer, Williams dropped in a running right-side bank shot and Allison Vernerey followed up her own miss to conclude the decisive burst for a 19-11 Duke lead.
Maryland finished the opening 20 minutes 12 of 31 (38.7 percent) from the field, including 0 for 9 from beyond the arc, and trailed by as many as 14 points.
“They made it really difficult for us to get easy looks,” Thomas said.
Hawkins scored eight of the Terrapins’ first 10 points in the second half, with the teams swapping scores early on. Maryland twice got within eight points in the second half, but could not rally.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)