COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The Maryland Terrapins ended a 20-year drought Sunday by beating the Duke Blue Devils 95-87 in overtime, ending the top-seeded Blue Devils' run at five straight championships. The list of improbabilities surrounding the Terps' road to the tourney isn't endless, but it's close. They vanquished Duke, winner of five straight ACC championships, a team that had beaten Maryland twice during the regular season. None of Williams's 14 previous Maryland teams -- not the version that went to the Final Four in 2001, nor the team that won the national championship in 2002 -- won the ACC tournament. Not since 1984 -- when Lefty Driesell was the coach and Len Bias was the star -- had the Terrapins made such a boast. That this team would be the one to do it borders on unfathomable. Entering the season, none of the key players had been in Maryland's program for more than a year. The roster lists five freshman and four sophomores. Three weeks ago Sunday, Maryland lost at Duke by 23 points. At that point, the Terps had won 13 games and lost 10.
With the game tied 48-48 around the 13-minute mark, Duke seized the momentum and its seventh consecutive ticket to the ACC Tournament title game with a 17-4 run and a lead head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad refused to relinquish. “In the second half our offensive efficiency was great,” said Krzyzewski, whose teams have now won a record 17 ACC tourney games in a row dating back to 1998. “It seemed like there was an assist on almost every play. Because of our foul trouble, we went to our motion [offense] away from the basket. The execution of that was very good.” That perpetual movement proved advantageous for a Duke team that fell to Georgia Tech just over a week ago due to the Yellow Jackets’ extremely physical style of play, and their subsequent squashing of Luol Deng, who was an uncharacteristic 1-for-14 in that contest. Conversely, Duke was able to penetrate the Ramblin Wreck defense with both dribbling and passing, which opened up its offensive options. But at the same time, the Blue Devils flexed some muscle of their own in the paint, scoring 46 in the interior, production that was led by Shelden Williams in what is becoming an ACC Tournament MVP-type effort. “We were stronger without he ball in the second half,” Krzyzewski said. “We found an incredible amount of guys open after driving. It is really as efficient as we have been all year. To me it was beautiful basketball. We played great offensive basketball. I told my team after the game I didn’t even know who scored. It was because you had so many connecting plays.” Williams was often the punctuation on those plays, as the sophomore from Oklahoma earned 20 points and 18 rebounds against the Yellow Jackets just a night after he went off for a career-high 27 points and eight rebounds in a win over Virginia. He also accumulated three blocks, giving him 98 on the season, enough to break Mike Gminski’s long-standing Duke single-season blocks record. “I knew coming in it was going to be a big, physical game throughout the whole game,” Williams said. “I knew if I put myself in a position where I don’t pick up any cheap fouls, I can help my team in the long run. That’s one of the things I was concentrating on. That helped [my] rebounding and playing defense and that contributed to our game.”