Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 27, 2013
DURHAM — Duke is used to being on the right side of a blowout— not the losing end — and thanks to Rasheed Sulaimon, the Blue Devils got back to that familiar role.
The freshman scored a season-high 25 points and No. 1 Duke bounced back from one of its worst losses under Mike Krzyzewski by routing Maryland 84-64 on Saturday.
“This was just a game to show basically what our character was like,” Sulaimon said. “Are we going to fold after a big loss, or are we going to step up and be men?”
Mason Plumlee added 19 points and Seth Curry had 13 for the Blue Devils (17-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
They had just four turnovers — none in the second half — while hitting 11 3-pointers and shooting 52 percent against a Maryland defense that hadn’t allowed anyone else to shoot better than 44 percent.
Plumlee finished 9 of 12 while Sulaimon was 9 of 13 with six 3-pointers — twice as many as his previous high, and four in a 3-minute span of the first half.
That came after he earned a seat on the bench because his man — Dez Wells — was beating him on the boards.
“When we took him out, we got on him and he did something that I think is so terrific. … He said, ‘I got you, Coach. I’ll do better,’” Krzyzewski said. “He just embraced responsibility, and anybody who embraces responsibility has a chance to do better. ‘It’s my fault. I’m responsible for it.’ He came in the game and he gave us a huge lift there.”
Wells and Charles Mitchell both had 13 points for the Terrapins (15-5, 3-4). They have lost four of six and were denied their first victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 2007 and first win over a No. 1 team since ‘08.
“We really played hard in the first 25 minutes, but I’ll look at the last 15 minutes,” Mitchell said. “That’s when you’re supposed to learn how to play and win the game, and we didn’t do that.”
Leading scorer Alex Len, who averages 13.5 points, finished with eight points and 10 rebounds for Maryland. But aside from an early reverse dunk over Plumlee that looked effortless, he was essentially a nonfactor against a Duke front line that was without injured 6-foot-11 forward Ryan Kelly for the fourth straight game.
The tough job of replacing him fell to high-energy freshman Amile Jefferson, who responded in his second straight start with 11 points and nine rebounds while blocking four shots and affecting several others.
His layup with 9:23 left gave the Blue Devils their largest lead to that point.
at 66-53. That came during the late 19-8 run that put Duke in complete control.
Logan Aronhalt pulled Maryland within single digits for the final time when his 3-pointer with 13 minutes left made it 58-49. Sulaimon countered with his sixth 3 to start the run, and Quinn Cook capped it with a jumper that put the Blue Devils up 20 for the first time, 77-57 with 4:39 left.
Cook finished with 11 points for Duke, which was coming off its most lopsided regular-season loss since 1984, a 90-63 beatdown at No. 25 Miami that will assuredly send the Blue Devils tumbling from No. 1.
“Everybody has to look in the mirror and say, ‘What do I need to do?’” Plumlee said. “It’s not fun. We hate losing, naturally. People are always like, ‘What did Coach do to you?’ We don’t like losing. Coach isn’t the only one who hates to lose.”
The only thing resembling a bright spot in that complete clunker might have been Sulaimon, who led them in scoring for the first time with 16 points while taking another step out of a midseason slump in which he was 7 of 32 during a rough four-game stretch.
The Terrapins hadn’t allowed a conference opponent to shoot better than 38 percent this season, and they might have kept that going had Sulaimon not turned this one into his personal shootaround.
“Sulaimon got going and made some good shots,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We made some mistakes defensively that got him going. Our ball screens weren’t very good and theirs (were).”
He hit four straight 3-pointers and scored 13 points during a 15-5 run that gave Duke its first bit of breathing room. That burst included a four-point play and a deep 3 in transition that had Turgeon calling time out to cool him off and drew “Holy ‘Sheed” chants from the Cameron Crazies.
“After that, everything else just kept falling in,” Sulaimon said.
His fifth 3 gave the Blue Devils their first double-figure lead, 32-22, with 61/2 minutes before halftime.