Duke at Maryland

Duke (16-3, 4-1) at Maryland (12-6, 2-2), 9:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3

Mason Plumlee (right) needs for touches for Duke's offense to run smoother.

Poor Maryland. There’s nothing their fans would like more than to knock off Duke. It was unlikely before last Saturday; now, the Terrapins have almost no shot. They’re facing an angry Duke team coming off a close loss. Maryland hasn’t been blown out this year, especially at home (their biggest home loss was by nine to Illinois). If they can keep it close against Duke, it will be great for their confidence going forward in a ridiculous stretch that includes trips to Miami, Duke and at home against North Carolina in their next five. And if Duke manages to only squeak by another mediocre ACC team, there may be reason for further concern. But the Terrapins will be fired up on the night that the court is being named in honor of former head coach Gary Williams.

Stat to watch: Each team’s two-point percentage. Both teams have shot well from three at times, but this game will likely be decided by which team can get more easy baskets. Duke’s two-point offense (54%) is 18th nationally and Maryland’s two-point defense is 217th (allowing 49 percent). Maryland has done better in conference, allowing just 48.3%, but so has Duke (shooting 54.3%). But the Duke defense is dead last in two-point defense in conference, allowing 49.5% and Maryland’s two-point offense is 11th (41.4 percent).

Duke made just 15-of-40 two-pointers (37.5%) against Florida State, their lowest percentage since shooting 35.5% against Kansas, a game they won narrowly. They hadn’t shot below 48% from two since that game. Duke’s not getting as many easy baskets: they haven’t had more than eight fastbreak points since December 30th. Five of Maryland’s last seven opponents have shot 50% or better from inside the arc. But they did hold their last two ACC opponents to a combined 39-of-87 (45%) from two. Still, the Terps let Temple shred the nets for 54% from two (Duke allowed Temple to shoot 58% from two).

The Blue Devils are struggling to contain dribble penetration and are letting quick guards in particular get to the basket seemingly at will. It’s pretty simple for Duke: they’re 16-0 when allowing less than 50% shooting and 0-3 when allowing 50% or higher. In Duke’s three losses, opponents have shot 58% from two (they’ve allowed 46% in wins). Florida State shot 54% overall and 56% from inside the arc. Three of Duke’s ACC opponents have shot 50% or better from two.

Maryland had struggled from inside the arc to start ACC play but have shot 37-of-65 (57%) in the last two games. They managed 19-of-33 shooting (58%) from two against Florida State on the road. Duke had better be vigilant on defense; they can’t let the Terps gain confidence at home on what will already be an emotional night.

Most important players: Terrell Stoglin, Maryland and Mason Plumlee, Duke. Plumlee can’t score without someone getting him the basketball, and for him to take just four shots in an ACC home game seems unacceptable. He had four field goal attempts (making two) and attempted three foul shots (making three) against Florida State. His six points were his fewest since December 30th. Against Temple in Duke’s last non-conference game, he had 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. In the five games since, he has 43 points (9.8 per game) on 16-of-29 shooting (5.8 attempts per game). After making just 2-of-10 foul shots against Virginia, he spent hours in the gym and has shot 10-of-13 (77%) in the three games since. Plumlee has been such a consistent force for much of the year and maybe he needs to work harder to get open, but he’s so efficient that it seems he needs to be more involved.

Terrell Stoglin has been spectacular this year, and he appears to have listened to head coach Mark Turgeon’s request that he get more assists (he’s averaged 2.7 in the last three games to go with 20.3 points in that span). The streaky sophomore has been on lately, shooting 14-of-30 (47%) in the last two games and 7-of-17 from three (47%). He’s also making 50% of his two-point attempts in ACC play and 54% in the last two games, which is a great sign for the Terps because Stoglin made just 43.7% of his attempts out of conference. Duke’s defense has struggled to stop dynamic guards like Stoglin. But Stoglin and Sammy Zeglinski should have a therapy session about dealing with the Duke defense: in three games against Duke last year, Stoglin shot 4-of-24 (16.7%) and 0-of-7 from three. He also has 11 assists and ten turnovers. If he does that again, Duke wins by 30.

Random stat: Since 2008, Duke’s overall record is 141-26 (54-15 in the ACC regular-season) and 26-18 (22-12 ACC) in road games. The Blue Devils take a lot of ribbing about not wanting to play true road games, not playing well on the road, etc. But looking at the last five seasons (including this one), road success hasn’t predicted postseason Tournament success. Their best road record in that span was 8-2 in 2008. Duke lost in the second round of both the ACC and NCAA Tournament. Their worst road record? Yep, the 2010 team (5-5). Even just looking at ACC road records, the 2009 team had the worst one (4-4) and they made the Sweet 16.

Prediction: Duke 85, Maryland 74

 

Last week: 7-5

Season: 79-31 (17-12 ACC)

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