COLLEGE PARK—For a precious few moments — as Maryland students rushed the floor and enveloped the players after a rare and sorely needed victory over No. 2 Duke — the Terps, their fans and beleaguered coach could embrace the occasion and forget about the unfulfilled expectations that preceded it.
In the coming weeks, bracketologists will assess what the 83-81 victory might mean for Maryland's chances of making the NCAA tournament.
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It's hard to say who was more desperate for such a memorable win — Turgeon, who was near tears afterward, the players or the fans.
Turgeon had to pause to compose himself in the media room as he described how his 13-year-old son Will left the loss to Virginia six days earlier when fans were taunting the coach.
“It's been a hard week. I don't do a lot of things well, but I'd like to think that I can coach a little bit, and I haven't done a very good job,” Turgeon said. “It's been a hard week on my family. Hard on my son last week — he had to leave the gym because the fans were so hard on his dad. This is for them. I've got a loyal family.”
Turgeon's family was in the room watching as he spoke.
Maryland earned its first win over Duke in the last seven meetings when freshman Seth Allen broke an 81-all tie with two free throws with 2.8 seconds left.
A desperation 3-pointer by Duke's Quinn Cook just missed at the buzzer.
“I actually thought Quinn's shot was [going] in,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Maryland had set up a screen for Logan Aronhalt on its final offensive possession. Alex Len was another option. Aronhalt and Len occupied the defense, and Allen bolted down the lane and was fouled by Cook.
“That one was for coach [Turgeon],” said Allen, who scored all of his 16 points in the second half but had eight of Maryland's season-high 26 turnovers. “He wanted it so much.”
Maryland's fans stormed the court, reaching to touch players. Somebody tossed a water bottle high into the air.
“They grabbed me, pulling my hair — anything they could to touch me,” said guard Nick Faust (seven points). Girls were trying to kiss my jersey.”
After the Terps lost to Virginia on Feb. 10, Turgeon asserted himself by declaring that he was the captain of the team. Senior James Padgett and junior Pe'Shon Howard — who was suspended for Saturday's game for an undisclosed rules violation — had previously been captains.
Turgeon also made his team collectively shoot 7,000 free throws during practices leading up to the game. Every player was required to shoot 500. The Terps had been hurt during conference losses by poor free-throw shooting.
Maryland, which unabashedly turns the Duke game into Comcast Center's loudest party of the season, won by dominating the boards and getting to the free-throw line.
The Terps, led by Len's 19 points, converted 25 of 34 from the line (73.5 percent) and outrebounded the Blue Devils, 40-20.
Maryland led by as many as 10 points in the second half. But Duke cut the margin to 80-78 on Seth Curry's 3-pointer with 59 seconds left.