By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010;
Sophomore guard Sean Mosley smiled broadly, letting his audience know he's got everything under control. A slump? He wouldn't exactly call his offensive struggles in recent weeks a slump. And on Wednesday night -- after breaking out of his, um, stretch of futility -- he showed off his pearly whites to display his unwavering confidence.
Did Mosley do anything different before Maryland's 88-79 win over Clemson? Did he enter Comcast Center -- where Maryland remained undefeated in ACC play -- at a different time, lace up his sneakers in a different manner or chow on a different type of food for his pregame meal? Mosley shook his head and unfurled a grin.
"I just came out here and played today," Mosley said. "That's the only thing I did."
If it were that simple -- if Maryland's victory over the Tigers was merely a matter of two teams carrying out their typical routines -- then the details would not be so intriguing. But Maryland (20-7, 10-3 ACC) and Clemson (19-8, 7-6) did not execute in their normal fashions, a fact made evident most clearly than in Mosley's game-high 20 points.
The Terrapins were erratic on both ends of the floor -- effective enough to remain in contention, but sloppy enough at times to afford Clemson a lead that grew to 15 points. Clemson was aided by three-point marksmanship previously unseen out of the Tigers this season, a firm rebounding advantage that was provided the Tigers second-chance opportunities and a pressure defense that caused Maryland sporadic headaches.
But Maryland responded with a surge Comcast Center patrons have come to expect this season. The Terrapins devoted less attention to Clemson forward Trevor Booker in the post and consequently shut down the Tigers' three-point-shooting efficiency in the second half.
Meantime, Maryland players not named Mosley rounded into form. By the time senior guard Greivis Vasquez stole the ball and flushed a fast-break dunk through the rim with just more than six minutes remaining, Maryland had turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead. The Terrapins created that cushion with a 12-0 run that had Clemson players flustered and Maryland fans erupting from their seats.
"You want to give them some encouragement, and the thing I talked about is what we've done all year and how tough we've been in pressure situations," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said of his halftime speech to the players. "And we're in one right now. It's a little different because it's only halftime. It's not the last minute of the game, but it's a pressure situation. We had to play well. We didn't have much room for error to start the second half."
There were several oddities in play at the outset of Wednesday's game. Mosley made his first three shots and had tallied more points before the first media timeout (nine) than he had in any of the previous seven games.
But Mosley proved to be one of the few Maryland players in any sort of offensive rhythm early on. Mosley, who entered the night averaging 6.2 points per game against ACC opponents, finished the first half with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.
Clemson, on the other hand, made five of its first eight three-point attempts. The Tigers entered the night ranked 10th in the conference in three-point field goal percentage (29.3 percent) in ACC play. The Tigers shot 50 percent (8 for 16) from three-point range in the first half.
"It was crazy," freshman forward Jordan Williams said. "I had never seen them shoot like that before, even in film. They were hitting everything. I said to the team at halftime, I said, 'They're going to start missing threes. They're not really a great three-point shooting team.' We had to know that they were going to start missing them."
The Tigers shot 3 for 14 from three-point range (21.4 percent) in the second half after Maryland pulled its help defense away from Booker and allowed Williams to defend Booker one-on-one. Booker tallied two points after the break.
At the same time, Maryland's offense picked up steam. Williams registered 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Vasquez finished with 15 points and 13 assists, and senior guard Eric Hayes tallied 15 points. The Terrapins shot 60.0 percent from the field in the second half.
"We just grind and we just work for 40 minutes," Mosley said. "Tonight, we probably grinded and worked for 35 or 34 minutes, but we found a way to get the win, and that's the most important thing for us. . . . We just put everything out there in the second half and, you know, when you got everybody clicking and everybody on the same page, it's hard to stop us."