The Duke Blue Devils Arrived at Comcast Center this afternoon undefeated in ACC play . . . but they didn't leave that way!
When, literally in the final second of today's game, Alyssa Thomas swatted a Haley Peters 3-point attempt practically all the way to Durham, the crowd of 15,000-plus let out a collective sigh, scream, cheer -- actually all of the above. The way AT soared skyward to block that shot, while staying well clear of Duke's shooter, well . . . it was kind of like putting a punctuation mark after those two (oft repeated) words, Beat Duke! And Beat Duke is exactly what the Terps did today, 63-61.
What a game! What is it about games between these two teams, Maryland and Duke, that makes them so exciting? We're not exactly sure, but they almost always are. (We bet ESPN was thrilled they decided to treat a national audience to this one.)
Today's game didn't start out all that exciting for Terps fans, and certainly didn't look like one that would end up being decided by a shot attempt in the final second of regulation. Hardly. It started out with the Terps looking completely discombobulated and overmatched by the Devils. Ten minutes into the first half, the Terps were already trailing by 12 points (5-17) and looked, well, terrible. But this wasn't the Maryland team we've followed all season. There had to be a reason for such a bumpy start. And we think we know what it was: the BCs blame Maryland's early game woes on the sartorial blunder of the (talented) young violinists from the Norwood School who played today's National Anthem. There they stood, just before the tip-off, playing lovely music while clad in their school colors . . . Duke blue and white! Uh-oh! Major faux pas!
But as Maryland has done on several occasions already this season, the team clawed its way back into contention. By halftime, the Terps only trailed by a single point. And the second half was a close, tough, back and forth battle -- in other words, a classic Maryland v. Duke contest -- right down to the final minute, final possession, final second.
The Terps were down by 1 point with only 43 seconds remaining, when T-Hawk grabbed an offensive rebound, muscled her way to the rim with Dukies hanging all over her and somehow, some way, got her shot to fall. A foul was called and T-Hawk finished her "and-one" to give Maryland a 2-point lead. A Chelsey Gray lay-up then tied the score at 61 with 21 seconds left. The BCs were beginning to wonder if this one was headed to overtime. But overtime was not this time. No, this time, with 14 seconds left in the game, T-Hawk managed to gather another Maryland miss for a putback to give the Terps a 2-point lead, which Alyssa preserved with her monster block on the defensive end as time expired.
What a game by the Terps! And what a game by Tianna! (She was a beast today!) She finished with 19 points to tie with Duke's Super Frosh, Elizabeth Williams, for game-high honors. Tianna has simply been astounding this season. It's not just the number of points she scores that makes Tianna so special. No, it's also when and how she scores, rebounds, chases down loose balls or sets up her teammates for an easy lay-up. Awesome. (BTW, if Tianna doesn't repeat tomorrow as ACC Player-of-the-Week, the BCs will demand a recount!)
After T-Hawk's end-game heroics and Super Soph Alyssa's punctuation-mark block, all that was left was for the fans -- who were already on their feet screaming during those last couple of possessions -- to scream some more, hug, slap hands . . . and smile. We all left Comcast, headed for the filled-to-overflowing parking lots, each doing our best imitation of AT's signature grin. Oh Happy Day . . . Maryland Beat Duke!
Photo Credit: DC BasketCases
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"Hello Thomas Family" . . . Monday morning update . . . The BCs were tuned in to ESPN's Sports Center this morning, and what fun it was to see the Top Ten Plays of the Week: Number 8 was Harrisburg, Pennsylvania high school senior Devin Thomas shattering the backboard after a dunk during a game on Thursday. You can see the video here. For fans who may not know this, Devin is the 235-pound, 6'9" little brother of the Terps' own Alyssa Thomas.
And ESPN's Play Number 7 of the week was, yes indeed, AT's monster block (see link above) to seal the win over Duke yesterday. ESPN identified Devin and Alyssa as siblings, and ended the AT clip by saying, "Hello Thomas family, in top plays of the week!" Awesome! By the way, after hearing about her lil bro's now-famous play, Alyssa tweeted, "Taught him everything he knows". And we believe it!
This made us wonder whether any other siblings had ever made the Top Ten Plays of the Week in the same week. Unfortunately, the BCs' Research Department has the day off for Presidents Day, so we can't ask them. But if anyone knows the answer, please do leave it in a comment.