ACC Tournament: Duke loses first game with Kelly
GREENSBORO — At the end of the regular season, all four of Duke’s losses had come with a Ryan Kelly disclaimer in the fine print at the bottom of the page.
It turns out the Blue Devils are, in fact, human with Kelly in the lineup and showed it in Friday night’s ACC quarterfinal loss to Maryland. The 83-74 defeat, due in part to a game-best 30 points from Maryland’s Dez Wells, occurred after a 4-for-25 three-point shooting performance. Duke entered the game the top 3-point shooting team in the conference.
Maryland (22-11) was the first team to defeat Duke with senior wingman Kelly and it did it with Wells, a freshman, being the difference-maker.
“It’s a hell of a thing,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It’s a phenomenon. That’s what happens in the game. When people are put in a position where they have to win, they elevate.”
Duke, who jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the last game of the regular season against North Carolina, fell behind by double digits early on and never led. Krzyzewski called timeout 90 seconds in, not recognizing the bunch that beat Miami and dominated its rival in the last two weeks.
“We weren’t the Duke team that’s played most of the season,” Krzyzewski said. “Especially the last couple of weeks. I’m disappointed in our performance but I’m also very impressed with Maryland.”
The Terrapins advanced to today’s semifinal against North Carolina and gave their NCAA Tournament resume a much-needed polish. Wells, a Raleigh product and self-proclaimed “late bloomer,” carried his team offensively, scoring in a variety of ways and hit all 10 of his free throws. After a 21-point night against Wake Forest, Wells looked like the second-best player of the tournament’s first two days behind Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan.
“He’s had a good year and he’s a really good player,” Krzyzewski said. “In these last two games he’s elevated himself to a really high level.”
Maryland displayed the desperation it needed for a team fighting to keep playing meaningful games by shooting 51 percent for the game and outrebounding Duke 38-28.
Duke (27-5) cut its deficit to one at 47-46 but went cold again and never regrouped. Maryland had an answer for every run and scored on seven of eight possessions in the second half to lead by as much as 13.
“I felt we looked younger, fresher and more athletic the entire game,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I was happy to be involved in this game, for my young team, but to win it is huge for our program.”
Duke’s Seth Curry was 2-of-7 behind the arc while Kelly misfired on all six 3-point attempts. The Devils only hit one 3, thanks to Tyler Thornton, in the first half as they trailed 34-26 at the break.
“We got a lot of good looks but our offense wasn’t sharp from the start,” Curry said. “We weren’t cutting hard, screening hard, things like that.”
Duke fell behind 12-2 four minutes in, keyed by 3-pointers from Wells and Jake Layman.
Going up against 7-foot-1 Alex Len, Mason Plumlee scored 19 points and had a chance to tie the game when 12:34 left on a one-on-one down low but was called for an offensive foul on a turnaround jumper that went in. The Devils’ 10-2 run stopped there and they never got closer as the Terps scored 17 of the next 23 points.
“To put a run together you’ve got to get stops,” Plumlee said. “They seemed to always have an answer.”
Layman, Len, Nick Faust, and Seth Allen all scored 10 points each. Rasheed Sulaimon netted 16 points off the bench for Duke.
Duke won the tournament in its last stop in Greensboro in 2011 but lost in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007 Friday. The Blue Devils now must wait and see if they’re still worthy of a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and make a return to form.
“There is no time to start questioning things,” Plumlee said. “But at the same time we have to right the ship going forward. This happens next week, we’re done.”