DURHAM, N.C. - Jon Scheyer was a freshman on the Duke team that lost four straight games to end the season and fell out of the Top 25. So he can't help but feel a little bit of excitement about the possibility of being No. 1 — even if he's quick to say rankings don't matter much.
"Watching Duke when I was in high school, it did seem like they were No. 1 a lot," the junior said. "I feel like this is where we belong."
Gerald Henderson scored 17 points to help the second-ranked Blue Devils rout Maryland 85-44 on Saturday, a victory that could propel the Blue Devils to the No. 1 ranking next week.
Scheyer scored 12 points for Duke (18-1, 5-0 ACC), which dominated from the opening tip and led 40-15 at halftime. From there, the lead only grew, including a couple of dazzling transition scores that pushed the Blue Devils to a 60-20 lead less than 4 minutes into the second half.
Duke led by as many as 44 points, handing the Terrapins (13-6, 2-3) their worst loss under coach Gary Williams. It was the fourth-largest margin of defeat in school history.
The Blue Devils haven't been ranked No. 1 since the final poll of 2005-06, but that could change after Wake Forest's home loss to Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Duke had been ranked No. 1 at least once every season from 1998-2004 under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, but had not reached the top spot in the past two seasons.
Fittingly, the Blue Devils' next game is at Wake Forest on Wednesday night.
"It'll be a big deal for our guys and it's a big deal for us because it means we're playing really well," Krzyzewski said of a No. 1 ranking. "We talked about it last week that, just don't worry about anything, let's just play. It's the same thing we're going to tell them going into this next week.
"It's an honor and it says you're playing real well. You don't get anything from it except a really big headline when you lose."
Duke shot just 43 percent, but hit 12 of 25 3-point attempts and finished with a 56-38 edge in rebounds. More importantly, the Blue Devils completely shut down Maryland's offense early to take the big lead and didn't let the Terrapins have much room to operate after that.
Maryland shot 28 percent, including 2-for-12 from 3-point range.
"I wouldn't use (the word), 'Surprised,'" Henderson said of the lopsided result. "I know how good this team can be when we're playing together and playing defense like we did the entire game. We can be pretty spectacular and explosive. I feel like we should play like that all the time."
It was Maryland's worst defeat since a 39-point loss to Wake Forest in 1963. It was also the Terps' worst ACC loss ever.
Landon Milbourne scored 19 points to lead Maryland, but the rest of the team shot 9-for-48 (19 percent) for the game.
"It wasn't how good they are defensively. What makes them good is their intensity," said Greivis Vasquez, who managed four points on 2-for-10 shooting. "If you don't play as hard as they do, you're not going to win games in here. You've got to play hard. If you don't, you're going to lose by 40."
The frustration was evident early when Dave Neal of Maryland flung his arms into the air in and cursed in disgust after Duke's 7-footer Brian Zoubek beat several Terps to the ball for the second offensive rebound of the possession before drawing a foul.
Things didn't get any better in the second half, which opened with a stretch in which Duke seemed more like it was putting together a highlight reel than playing an ACC opponent.
Finally, after another Maryland turnover, Scheyer saved a ball from going out of bounds near midcourt in transition, leading to a perfect touch pass from Smith to Henderson for another score that capped a 14-0 run and pushed the lead to 40 points with 15:28 to play.
"The start of the second half, for about 4 or 5 minutes there, that was as good a basketball as can be played," Krzyzewski said. "It was lights-out basketball for about 5 minutes. I was proud of my team because with a lead, you can have a tendency to let down. And they didn't."
Before the game, there was a moment of silence to honor longtime North Carolina State women's coach Kay Yow — who died Saturday morning after a two-decade fight with cancer — and Bill Werber, who was the oldest living ex-major leaguer and Duke's first All-America basketball player. Werber died Thursday.