ACC Tournament semifinals: Duke 67, Maryland 61
By Bret Strelow
ATLANTA ó David McClure caught Maryland’s defense off-guard by driving for a left-handed layup that prompted Duke assistants Nate James and Chris Collins to both stand and deliver detailed messages of support to the fifth-year senior.
The third-seeded Blue Devils, led by Jon Scheyer’s 22 points and quality production from their bench, won 67-61 in an ACC Tournament semifinal Saturday at the Georgia Dome. They advanced to face Florida State in today’s final despite the offensive struggles of Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the league has never been stronger in the past decade, and his team is going for its first tournament championship since 2006. McClure and Greg Paulus are the only Blue Devils who have participated in an ACC title game.
“I think it would be a great way to kind of propel us into the latter part of March,” McClure said.
“There’d be no greater way to end this thing with Jon, with G, with our team right now, than to go out and get one because everybody on our team feels a part of it this year. I think everybody will take ownership of it.”
Eric Hayes paced Maryland with 20 points, and Duke (27-6) limited star guard Greivis Vasquez to 14. Singler finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but he and Henderson went a combined 6-for-26 from the field.
The Terrapins (20-13) trailed 44-41 when McClure swatted Hayes’ 3-point attempt into the Maryland bench with one second remaining on the shot clock, and Dave Neal didn’t draw iron on a rushed heave. Henderson and Scheyer made 3-pointers to begin a 12-2 run.
The unlikely layup from McClure after he dribbled by Neal gave Duke its first double-digit lead.
“We want him to do that,” Collins said. “Teams that we play are going to load up their defenses for Gerald, Kyle and Jon. Those other guys have to be opportunistic with their drives and their shots. We’ve really talked to these guys about not taking a backseat.”
McClure deflected an entry pass, made a steal and raced to the other end for a layup on Maryland’s next possession.
“I feel there are a lot of different ways I can help the team,” McClure said. “Sometimes it can be a drive to the basket, sometimes it can be a rebound, sometimes it can just be a strong screen.
“That’s really the thing I enjoy doing ó helping the team whether it’s a little thing or tonight a couple of things that stand out a little bit more.”
McClure had six points in 23 minutes, and guard Nolan Smith came off the bench to score 10 points in 30 minutes. Paulus hit a first-half 3-pointer.
Duke’s reserves combined for 19 scoreless minutes during a loss to North Carolina in the regular-season finale, and Smith returned for an ACC Tournament quarterfinal against Boston College. He had missed three consecutive games as he recovered from a concussion.
“After (Friday) I felt good,” Smith said. “Today, I feel even better. It’s going to take some time.”
The Tar Heels lost in Saturday’s first semifinal, and many UNC fans were seated behind Duke’s bench.
Krzyzewski took satisfaction in seeing Smith make three free throws in the final 35 seconds.
“I’m really kind of astounded how well Nolan has played these two games; he’s just practiced a little bit,” said Krzyzewski, who tied Jim Phelan for fourth place in Division I history with 830 career wins.
“Nolan was a huge factor today. Going into those pressure situations, I know some of the fans behind us were yelling about his head and headaches. They were giving a lot of really humanitarian support for him, which was appreciated. Really cool stuff. He knocked down the free throws. In Chicago, that’s a good way of answering.”
The free throws secured Duke’s spot in today’s final at 1 p.m.
Maryland doesn’t start a player taller than 6-foot-7, and Florida State has one of the biggest frontcourts in the country.
“We’re not going to grow overnight, but you guys can do that if you want,” Krzyzewski told Scheyer and McClure. “I’ll be happy, Jon, if you’re 6-10 as long as you can still handle and shoot and you don’t get a big-guy disease.”
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