Huge crowd is no help as Blue Devils finish sweep
Alyssa Thomas snatched a rebound under the Duke basket, turned and dribbled up the floor with speed and control that few in her sport can match. It was another of the end-to-end rushes that have become her signature in three spectacular seasons at Maryland.
But at Comcast Center on Sunday, nothing was quite right for the Terrapins. As Thomas rose to finish, her rhythm was disrupted and her layup rolled off the rim and into the hands of a player from Duke.
It was that kind of afternoon for No. 8 Maryland as Thomas struggled and the Terps missed their first 12 attempts from beyond the arc, unable to solve the formidable defense of No. 5 Duke in a 75-59 defeat before 15,853, the seventh largest crowd in ACC history, all of them at Comcast.
It was almost three times as many fans as for any other women's game this season at Comcast. They came to cheer on the Terps against their rival, support the Team Tyler Foundation of Maryland coach Brenda Frese and razz Duke coach Joanne McCallie, who made national news last week by deriding Maryland on her Twitter account after the Terps men upset the Blue Devils.
"I'm really proud of our team. We've had a rough week," McCallie said. "We just try to grow and get better. We don't pay attention to other people's thoughts."
Maryland was anxious to atone for a 71-56 loss two weeks earlier in Durham, in which Frese was ejected for the first time in her career. Duke's star that night was junior All-American point guard Chelsea Gray, who scored 28 points but was subsequently lost to a knee injury. If Maryland (22-5, 13-3) was anticipating the loss of Gray to be an equalizer, it didn't materialize because of the play of freshman Alexis Jones, who had 15 points and nine assists, both career highs, to go along with her eight rebounds.
"Today she went to another level," McCallie said. "A freshman point guard coming into this environment, terrific crowd, it was great to see. To do what she did is almost unheard of."
At the other end of the floor, Duke controlled Thomas (14 points, six rebounds, six assists, five turnovers). In the first half, she had trouble freeing herself from 6-foot Richa Jackson. In the second half, when Duke switched to a zone, it limited Thomas's ability to drive the lane and free her teammates. The 6-2 Thomas was coming off a career-high 30-point outing at Boston College.
"You're not going to score 30 points every game," Thomas said. "They just really were physical and made it really difficult for us to get easy looks."
When Thomas finally shook free in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions, it sparked a rally. Junior Katie Rutan (eight points) followed with Maryland's first 3-pointer. With 7:45 left, the Terps had cut a 17-point deficit to 54-46. But sophomore Elizabeth Williams (16 points, seven rebounds) answered with inside buckets sandwiched around Thomas' length-of-the-court dash and layup miss as Duke resumed control.
"Tough night for us," Frese said. "They had a great game plan. We became a jump-shooting team. We took too many shots from the perimeter. We settled."