GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Duke, traditionally strong in the ACC tournament, stayed in step for a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a 87-71 victory over Maryland in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament Friday night.
The Blue Devils have the résumé to be on the top line, or at the very least the second. But losing in the first game of the conference tournament when all the other competitors for the spot were winning would have been a fatal blow to their No. 1 chances.
The main issue for Duke after this game will be the evaluation of Nolan Smith, the star senior guard and player of the year candidate who injured his left foot in the second half. Smith went to the locker room and returned, but never got into the game in the final six-plus minutes.
Star player: Duke senior forward Kyle Singler had a signature performance for the Blue Devils with 29 points, converting all nine of his free throws attempts. Maryland was no match for Singler as the Terps couldn’t handle his face-up game. Even though he missed all four of his 3-pointers, he was a tough matchup all night.
Turning point: It was actually when Smith went down. The Blue Devils were only up five at the time. But Smith’s absence didn’t hurt the Blue Devils one bit. Duke ran off a 22-11 run after the injury and the Devils seemed even more intense. Maryland had chances but couldn’t convert. The season-long problems for the Terps continued as they remain offensively challenged.
Key stat: Maryland couldn’t afford to give points away, but the Blue Devils created free throw opportunities and made more of the chances by converting 22-of-27, while the Terrapins were just 15-of-28.
What’s next: Duke moves onto the ACC semifinals Saturday afternoon against Virginia Tech or Florida State while Maryland could be headed to the CBI if the NIT delivers a snub.