Maryland eliminates Duke in ACC tournament
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
GREENSBORO, N.C. — So much of Duke’s season has been defined by one player: Ryan Kelly.
There were nearly two separate seasons: the one where the No. 2 Blue Devils had him available, and the dark days when they didn’t. Undefeated with him, four losses without. Final Four-caliber with him, NCAA tournament early exit potential without.
It’s time to stop using Kelly as an excuse for losses and the key to a No. 1 seed — now that Duke has suffered its first loss with Kelly on the court. Maryland, a team that had already beaten Duke this season, led the Blue Devils from the start of the game, held off a second-half surge and won 83-74 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
The last time Duke played in the Greensboro Coliseum was nearly a year ago, an NCAA tournament first-round upset loss to Lehigh.
Duke (27-5) struggled offensively the entire night, shooting just 4-for-25 from three and airballing its final attempt of the game.
Maryland (22-11) was led by Dez Wells, who scored a career-high 30 points, including 16 in the first half.
Duke, still a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, awaits its regional assignment Sunday when the tournament field is announced. Maryland, meanwhile, may be playing its way back into contention for an at-large bid — as well as a shot at an automatic berth if it can reach and win Sunday’s ACC final.