Matt Patton is an RTC correspondent and an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after tonight’s Maryland-Duke game from the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Maryland’s offense is fine*: That disclaimer is provided if the Terrapins hit open shots. Maryland torched Duke most of the night, knocking down shot after shot. Duke deserves much of the blame for faulty rotations and miscommunications, but many of Maryland’s struggles this season have come from its inability to take advantage of the opportunities teams present to them. As a team Maryland went 40% (8-of-20) from three and a crisp 23-of-25 from the free throw line. Also Maryland had fewer turnovers than Duke (something that only happened three times in 18 conference games). That’s how to hold onto a lead — especially late in the game. The game wasn’t without mistakes, but those mistakes were far less prominent than usual.
- Ryan Kelly didn’t magically fix Duke’s defense: A popular narrative the past two weeks or so is that Ryan Kelly fixed Duke’s issues on defense, but that’s not true. Dez Wells showed that an athletic player with the ability to knock down shots and penetrate can still wreak havoc on Duke’s defense. It wasn’t just Duke’s inability to stay in front of Maryland that was the problem, though. Duke also rotated poorly and when help defense did come, it was often ineffective. Unfortunately because of the small sample size of Duke’s recent games with Ryan Kelly, it’s hard to tell if this game was an anomaly or a crack in the foundation. Duke’s defense is better than this showing (teams aren’t typically going to shoot 92% from the free throw line), but it’s also a cause of concern looking towards the Big Dance.
- Freshman poise: Freshmen for both teams played very well for their first time on the ACC Tournament stage. For Maryland, Mark Turgeon got very valuable minutes from Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare and Seth Allen. They didn’t score tons of points, but all contributed in other ways. Layman in particular was instrumental in guarding Ryan Kelly (who finished 3-of-11 from the floor) for most of the night. Layman also sneakily led the game in rebounding. On Duke’s side, Rasheed Sulaimon kept the Blue Devils in the gym during the first half. He was the only aggressive Duke player, finishing the half with 12 points in 15 minutes. Surprisingly, Mike Krzyzewski sat Sulaimon for the first five minutes of the second half.
Star of the Game: Dez Wells, hands down. As Dave Telep pointed out late in the game, Wells is from Raleigh and never got much interest from Duke. Whether or not that was the reason, Wells played like a man possessed, going 9-of-13 from the field and 10-of-10 from the free throw line for 30 points to go with six boards and three assists. Duke couldn’t stop him and every time Maryland needed a bucket, he stepped up big. He’s carried Maryland in both of its ACC Tournament games.