by Mike Potter
The No. 3 Blue Devils, 14-0 and with the nation’s best RPI against a killer schedule, will take on No. 14 Maryland (13-1) that’s on a 12-game winning streak.
Duke has won 24 of the last 31 meetings against the Terps, but Maryland came out on top in the 2006 NCAA title game.
Both teams are somewhat young, as all five members of Duke’s top-rated freshman class have been getting playing time while Maryland doesn’t have a single senior on the roster.
It’s yet another entertaining game in the series, with Jasmine Thomas once again making huge plays in the closing seconds as Duke survives 71-64.
As expected, it’s a war from the beginning.
Duke leads by as many as five points three times in the early going, the last at 13-8 on Karima Christmas’ drive with 15:26 left in the period.
But Maryland scores 14 straight points, ending in a Kim Rogers layup with 8:43 remaining in the period that makes it 25-15.
Duke pulls even at 27 on Krystal Thomas’ layup from Christmas at the 2:12 mark, but Maryland leads 33-29 at the break on Lynetta Kizer’s 12-foot hook at the buzzer.
The Terps shoot 43.8 percent in the first half to 36.4 for Duke, which is 3-for-15 from 3-point land.
There are seven ties and three lead changes in the second half, with the Blue Devils taking the lead for good at 61-60 on Jasmine Thomas’ 3-pointer with 1:58 to go.
That puts Duke on a knockout 7-0 run, as Jasmine Thomas comes up with a rebound and hits a floater in the lane at 1:10 followed by Chelsea Gray’s steal and layup with 51 seconds to go.
Jasmine Thomas leads all scorers with 22 points including a season-high four 3-pointers, while freshman Tricia Liston has her best game with 12 points in 20 minutes. Center Krystal Thomas adds eight points to go with her 10 rebounds.
Rodgers leads the Terps with 18 points, followed by Diandra Tchatchouang with 14 points and freshman Alyssa Thomas adds a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Duke shoots 38.2 percent to 37.7 for Maryland, despite going 6-for-29 from outside the 3-point arc. Duke wins the rebound battle 46-42, committing 16 turnovers to 19 for Maryland.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “It was just a great basketball game, a really good game. I really appreciate the crowd and the support the team received. It was particularly challenging for us playing Kentucky (on Tuesday) and then playing Maryland, so I think some well-deserved rest is needed for these players. Tricia’s been working out extra and doing all sorts of things, and it’s so much fun to watch a player to be a difference-maker in a game like she was. … And for Jasmine, 36 minutes tonight and 34 (against Kentucky), game-winners on offense and defense, there’s just no other guard like her in terms of how she plays both sides of the ball and how she loves to attack.”
Maryland coach Brenda Frese: “That was just a tremendous game by both teams, and it was there for either team. I thought we battled hard. I thought we let the last three minutes slip away and it’s a credit to Duke and their defense. … We said in the timeout that (Jasmine Thomas) was going to take over, so it’s disappointing to see plays like that unfold in front of you. Great players put their teams on their backs and make special plays and man, I’m ready for her to graduate I can tell you that.”
Jasmine Thomas: “I honestly feel as comfortable in that (late-game) situation as I do during the entire game. It feels the same to me. … I kind of just mesh in with everyone else and then all of a sudden at the end of the game if the ball is in my hand it’s time for them to actually pay attention to me. I know they know it’s going to be me. I feel that maybe affects it, I don’t know.”
Liston: “I think as the game went on I just got more comfortable. My teammates were finding me in open spots and just getting the ball to me and my shot was there, and once it started falling it kind of gave me more confidence to attack and be a more aggressive offensive and defensive player. I think the confidence just grew as the game went on. Even though it was a tough game, it just came to me.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke is becoming very proficient at coming up with big plays to win close games. And that Maryland looks like a solid contender to make a run at the top of the ACC.
Stars of the game
1. Jasmine Thomas.
3. Alyssa Thomas.
Play of the game
Jasmine Thomas’ 3-pointer to give Duke the 61-60 lead.
Duke: Won 15.
Maryland: Lost 1.
Maryland vs. Boston College, Jan. 13, 7 p.m.
Duke at Florida State, Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m.