BY MATT SUGAM
Special TO ZAGSBLOG
DURHAM, N.C. – It wasn’t Duke-North Carolina.
Quite frankly, it never could be.
But Duke-Maryland was always something special.
Both schools knew it and so did their fan bases. And for one last time in the regular season as conference foes, there was an extra aura in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“That was vintage Cameron, man,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after No. 8 Duke’s 69-67 win over Maryland in the Terps’ last game there before moving to the Big Ten next season. “That was one for the ages today.”
High praise for the 74-year-old cathedral of college basketball that has seen countless classics. And quite a few between Duke and Maryland.
In the 177th meeting of the series that began in 1925, long before the ACC formed in 1953-54, Maryland desperately wanted to go out on top.
“We played tonight for Maryland. We didn’t play for ourselves,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We played for all former coaches, all former players, all former students. We played for Maryland because we knew we weren’t getting them at our place. This was our one chance.
“We know what it means to Maryland fans. I can’t be more proud of our guys. I hope every Maryland fan feels the same way. I know we’re upset that we lost, but our guys gave it all that they had.”
But it wasn’t enough as Duke eked out a victory in the slugfest in large part thanks to Jabari Parker.
With Maryland trailing 68-67, Charles Mitchell had one hook shot blocked by Parker with about 7 seconds remaining.
Mitchell then put up another hooks hot in the paint that rolled around the rim and looked like it could end up being the game-winner before it rolled out before Duke’s Amile Jefferson grabbed the rebound.
“I knew that he was going on the strong side,” Parker said. “I knew that he likes going over his left shoulder for the right sky hook. So I knew with Amile, that I just had to cover his back to get the baseline recovery.”
“I don’t know how Charles’ shot didn’t go in,” Turgeon said. “Call the Duke gods.”
Parker did. But that wasn’t the highlight of the game.
After struggling much of the night from the field, Parker (6-of-16 for 23 points) jab-stepped twice from the top of the left wing before blowing by Jake Layman and posterizing Damonte Dodd with the one-handed jam to put Duke up 68-67 with 1:17 left.
“I just wished he [Dodd] would have fouled Parker there at the end when Parker drove,” Turgeon said. “Make Parker make two free throws instead of the dunk.”
Which is what Parker was expecting to happen.
“I knew that I really had to finish through,” Parker said. “I really didn’t look for the highlight. I just knew that I really had to finish strong at the rim to get some type of foul or get the shot to go in.”
It was the latter that happened, and it was the first of a duo of game-winning plays by the freshman. One that knows the history of the 89-year rivalry.
“I watched a couple games of the Maryland-Duke rivalry,” Parker said. “The game that [Shane] Battier and them caught up by 10 [with a minute left in regulation] and ended up winning [in overtime in 2001] and I knew that it was going to be something of tradition that we were going to be in for a fight. These are the games that we really look for.”
But this will be the final round. Much to the chagrin of those involved.
“I’m going to miss this,” Turgeon said. “What a great place to come and play. It reminds me of playing in Kansas, and coaching against one of the all-time best, so I’m going to miss it. That was fun.”
In the end, it was Duke who threw the final punch. And while Krzyzewski insisted he relishes beating every team the same, he knows an era in ACC has come to an end. Duke-Maryland rivalry will now become folklore in the annals of history.
“The players and the coaches that have shared these unforgettable moments, I don’t know what it’s worth because it won’t be replicated,” Kryzewski said. “There will be other rivalries and other games but…You talk about all these years…The one consistent factor is they’ve been great games.”
And the final one was no different.