COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Playing for the third time in seven days, No. 6 Duke could have really used a breather against struggling, rebuilding Maryland.
Instead, the weary Blue Devils were forced to expend every bit of their remaining energy to squeeze out a 58-57 victory Sunday night.
The victory capped a week in which the Blue Devils were soundly defeated by Connecticut before defeating Virginia Tech.
“I’m extremely proud of our team’s character,” coach Joanne McCallie said. “A lot of things were working against us throughout. I thought Jasmine showed incredible poise in terms of what she did defensively and, of course, offensively.”
Thomas accounted for more than a third of the Blue Devils’ points, grabbed three rebounds and had three steals.
Duke (17-3, 5-0) frittered away an 11-point lead and trailed 54-53 before Mitchell hit a runner in the lane as the shot clock expired.
After a missed shot by Maryland, Duke’s Joy Cheek made two free throws with 20 seconds remaining for a three-point cushion. Anjale Barrett then missed a 3-point attempt for the Terrapins, and Thomas made one of two free throws before Barrett connected on a 3 at the buzzer.
“We did more than survive,” McCallie insisted. “I thought we really handled adversity well. A lot of teams don’t play Connecticut. We did. Then we had a great game against Virginia Tech and you’ve got to travel. I think we really blossomed as a team in the sense of our toughness. Not everything was going our way – at all.”
Lori Bjork scored 11 points for Maryland (14-6, 2-4), which committed 19 turnovers. The Terrapins, who had their 48-game home winning streak broken by Miami on Thursday, have lost three straight overall – matching their longest skid since February 2004.
It’s also the first time since February 2006 that Maryland has lost two in a row at home.
“Obviously, there are no moral victories. But I am proud of this team,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I think it’s a great statement game for us, the fact that our teams knows they can play with anybody.”
Maryland trailed 30-25 early in the second half before Lynetta Kizer made a layup to ignite a 9-0 run that gave the Terrapins their first lead since 2-0.
Mitchell then scored on a putback, and Thomas scored the Blue Devils’ next 13 points to make it 45-38.
“I really was just taking the shots that were there,” Thomas said. “In the first half, I forced a lot of things, over-penetrated and passed up a few shots I should have taken. They were still there in the second half, and I just hit them.”
After Thomas’ scoring spree, the lead expanded to 51-40. Bjork then hit consecutive 3-pointers to begin a 14-2 surge that put Maryland back in front.
Following a series of missed shots and turnovers, Mitchell hit her pivotal shot.
Although the Blue Devils battled fatigue, they had more fight left at the end than the Terrapins.
“Credit Duke,” Frese said. “I thought in the second half they just came back stronger. I think their physicality wore us down.”
Cheek had nine points and 11 rebounds for Duke. She needs one more point to become the 25th player in Duke history to score 1,000.
Duke led 27-25 at halftime, mostly because Maryland shot 31 percent, went 5 for 13 at the free throw line and committed 10 turnovers.
Both teams had trouble shooting early, although the Blue Devils were a bit more protective of the ball in taking an 8-3 lead. Duke opened 3 for 13 from the field, but the Terrapins were even worse over the first nine minutes, going 1 for 9 from the floor with six turnovers.