DURHAM, N.C. --- In practical terms, Maryland's second trip to the Triangle in as many weekends yielded the same result.
A loss is a loss, of course, and the Terrapins have absorbed four in six games.
Seven days earlier at North Carolina, Maryland did itself in. Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Terps simply weren't as good, as efficient or as capable as the nation's top-ranked team.
"The way they played today, they probably could beat any team in the country," guard Dez Wells said.
If Wells wasn't completely accurate, he was close. This wasn't the greatest day for the Terps (15-5, 3-4 ACC) and they could have defended the perimeter better, but the result wasn't about them.
It stemmed far more from a cranky Blue Devils bunch coming off a humbling 27-point loss out to make amends.
Duke (17-2, 4-2) got 25 points from Rasheed Sulaimon, who made six 3-pointers and almost single-handedly created some separation in the first half as the Terps found some things that worked (Wells, in general, and Charles Mitchell on putbacks) and stuck with them when the opportunity afforded themselves.
Maryland sustained some quick runs, only to quickly close a widening gap to something much more manageable. It was, in many ways, a classic Duke game, during which the Blue Devils pull away with a late-game burst.
It wasn't necessary this time. Maryland went to the break down eight, and Duke simply maintained a roughly 10-point lead until the Terps fizzled in the final 10 minutes while the Blue Devils tightened their defense to more Duke-like standards.
"I was pleased considering they were 7 out of 10 from three," coach Mark Turgeon said. "I was like ‘Man, I don’t know if Duke can play any better than they played.’ Well, they played about the same in the second half. They were better defensively and wore us down a little bit."
If Saturday's result was far more about Mike Krzyzewski's team than Turgeon's, there was still something to glean for Maryland. For one, Turgeon's patience with his team's immaturity has probably reached its nadir after the benching of freshman Seth Allen for the first half after he arrived late to a meeting.
His team hung around well into the second half, never close to making a serious push but not in danger of absorbing a pummeling until the final eight minutes.
It was what a team starting three sophomores and two freshmen --- even with players as capable as Wells and Alex Len --- can probably expect when it saunters into Cameron's cramped quarters on most occasions.
There wasn't much to build on a week ago for the Terps in a 10-point loss at North Carolina. The margin doubled this time, but it still offered more constructive prism through which Maryland could view things.
"The last 15 minutes are what I’m going to focus on when I get home," Mitchell said. "What mistakes I made, what mistakes the team made and how we get better from the last 15 minutes. We played hard the first 25."
It wasn't good enough, which comes as little surprise given the opponent. The Blue Devils played well into the final minute, hitting a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to punctuate its latest victory in an increasingly lopsided series (Duke has won 12 of the last 13).
So Duke, for now at least, is better than Maryland. Of course, the Terps' greater concern over the next dozen games is doing their part to narrow the gap between themselves and upper-level foes.
"We were better," Turgeon said. "We grew up a little. We just couldn’t sustain it. Two steps forward, one foot back. It seemed like every time we kind of got close, they’d hit and drain a 3. The one thing we do is we guard, and we didn’t guard today. Give them credit."
That, it turns out, is the most effective explanation of Maryland's latest long day in Durham. Well, maybe the second-most effective.
"All our guys played well and that's why we won," Krzyzewski said.
The Terps can play better, and will need to in the near future. But even if they had on this day, it probably would not have mattered, anyway.
--- Patrick Stevens