DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—He makes 3-pointers, he drives to the basket, he creates matchup problems all over the court. Kyle Singler is doing just about everything for No. 2 Duke—except playing like a freshman.
Singler scored a season-high 26 points and sparked the decisive run that helped the Blue Devils withstand Maryland’s comeback attempt and beat the Terrapins 77-65 on Wednesday night for their 12th straight win.
“He can shoot, defend, pass—he’s a winner,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s got it all, and it’s all just a matter of getting the physical maturity there. He’s still a young body, but he’s not a young heart, nor a young mind. He’s big-time in both those areas.”
Duke’s top rookie also established career highs with 10 field goals and six 3s, reaching 20 points for the fourth time this season and taking 17 shots while showing none of the hesitation that occasionally plagues freshmen as they adjust to the pace of Division I.
“I’m a lot more comfortable out on the court, seeing more things,” Singler said. “Whether it’s through practice, the game’s slowing down and I’m picking up my shots, picking up my reads a lot quicker.”
Greg Paulus added 20 points for the Blue Devils (22-1, 10-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who blew most of a 16-point lead but used a late 11-2 run to snap Maryland’s four-game winning streak and claim a victory in a matchup of the league’s hottest teams.
Duke protected its famous home court against a Maryland team that had enjoyed a measure of success here recently. Gary Williams’ team entered having won two of its last three games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, including an 85-77 victory last March in which then-freshman Greivis Vasquez finished one rebound shy of a triple-double.
This time, Vasquez scored 25 points to lead the Terrapins (16-9, 6-4), who were denied a second victory on Tobacco Road this season after they went to nearby Chapel Hill and knocked off then-No. 1 North Carolina last month. The Terps also were swept by Duke in the regular season for the first time since 2005-06, after Maryland won both of last season’s matchups.
“They’re a good team, but the season isn’t over for us,” Vasquez said. “We’ve got the ACC tournament, and that’s the good thing about sports—you get another chance.”
James Gist—who averaged 22 points over the last six games—was held to nine on 3-of-11 shooting, although he did have 10 rebounds.
“We cannot take everything away from everybody—from anybody, probably,” Krzyzewski said. “But we did enough, and then used some of our mismatches where we got a little bit more, and then we won. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Singler’s previous best game was a 25-point effort in a 77-73 victory over Marquette in the championship game of the Maui Invitational. This time, he started Duke’s game-deciding run when, after Maryland closed within two points with less than 8 minutes left, he drove the left baseline for a layup to make it 59-55.
“He’s too good—you can’t make mistakes,” Williams said. “That’s why he’s considered one of the best freshmen in the country.”
Two possessions later, he swished a 3-pointer from the left wing and later added a fast-break dunk, before Jon Scheyer’s drive past Gist through the lane with 4:08 remaining gave the Blue Devils a 68-57 lead.
“We just spread the floor out, see mismatches and execute (for) whomever has the mismatches,” Singler said. “Jon had Gist on him one time, took him to the hoop and that was the play that sealed the game.”
Bambale Osby added 13 points for Maryland, which led only in the opening moments, yet nearly escaped a 16-point second-half deficit with a 12-3 run, closing within two on Gist’s fast-break dunk that made it 57-55 with 8 minutes left.
After forcing a Duke miss, the Terrapins had a chance to tie it, but Lance Thomas blocked Dave Neal’s layup, Eric Hayes missed a layup and Scheyer grabbed the rebound to begin the Blue Devils’ decisive sequence.
“I was proud of our team in the second half, because we made a really good run, and we missed some shots that we normally make,” Williams said. “You probably only get one chance to get over the top when you’ve been down that far. We had our chance, and we weren’t able to take advantage of it.”
Singler—who had his second straight 20-point game—gave Duke its largest lead of the game when his 3 early in the second half made it 46-30.