Maryland upset a Clemson, 84-78, yesterday in a basketball game that typified the most erratic season of coach Lefty Driesell's eight years at College Park.
The Terrapin's continued to commit the mistakes, some of them straight from the playground, that makes them so much fun to watch if unpredictable to coach. Yesterday the Terps overcame the errors with hustle and concentration - intensity is the cliche coaches use.
They concentrated well enough to make their last 21 free-throw attempts. Fourteen of their last 16 points came from the foul line.
Now the Terps are 16-6 overall and 5-4 in the topsy-turvy Atlantic Coast Conference. They have played their two best games following 22 and 27-point thrashings.
"You've been born again; you've been born again," Driesell said as he walked around his Cole Field House locker room and congratulated each player. He had appealed to their self-pride and they responded - all six players he used, especially freshman guard Jo Jo Hunter, the most mercurial Terp of all, along with center Mike Davis.
"The whole team could have given up after being blown out by North Carolina (Wednesday)," said playmaker Brad Davis. "But they proved they're first-class guys, playing their guts out for every one to see."
Clemson, a 4 1/2-point favorite in a bid for its eighth straight victory, seemed destined to be ranked in the nation's top 10 for the first time ever next week. But Mike Davis, the 6-foot-10 rookie from Mercer Junior College, pruned 7-2 Tree Rollins and the Terps hustled and mixed defense well enough to hold Clemson to 40 per cent field goal accuracy, 13 percentage points below its average this season.
The loss left Clemson with an 18-4 overall record, 6-3 in the ACC.
Hunter led the Terps with 24 points and five steals. The freshman from Mackin High in Washington had three steals and three buckets during a five-minute span in which Maryland avoided any of its 21 turnovers and increased its lead from 24-21 to 41-27 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
But, in the end, Maryland won the game in the frontcourt, where the 6-10 Davis (16 points, 10 rebounds), 6-9 Larry Gibson (14 and 10) and 6-8 Lawrence Boston (10 and 6) shot a collective 67 per cent.
Hunter and Brad Davis, each of whom played the full 40 minutes, pressured Clemson's two point guards, Derrick Johnson and Bobby Conrad, into 4-foot-18 shooting and seven turnovers.
Maryland made some atrocious errors, the foremost of which were Hunter's dipsy-doodle pass to Clemson's Greg Coles and Mike Davis' sidearm, looping outlet pass toward the Maryland bench. That one made Driesell duck and put his hands over his head, not in self-defense, but in disgust.
But Maryland overcame these two turnovers and six more in the final 10 minutes of protesting its eight-point halftime lead with sheer hustle.
Hunter corraled a missed shot by Brad Davis and wound up with two free throws that gave the Terps a 53-45 lead.
The Maryland big men, involved in a volleyball game at Clemson basket, kept their hands in the Tigers' faces for five straight offensive-rebound misses before Gibson got the ball, fed Brad Davis, who then hit Hunter for a breakway dunk and a 55-45 lead.
Turk Tillman dove out of bounds to save a loose ball and tapped it back to Mike Davis, who passed to Brad Davis for a 10-foot jumper and a 64-54 lead.
Boston alertly came down the line to rebound Hunter's miss, was fouled and made two free throws for a 70-60 lead with 5:35 to play.
Brad Davis, directing a couble post stall, drove through a flat-footed Clemson defense for a 74-66 lead with four minutes to play.
That was Maryland's last field goal. The Terps would make their last 10 points on free throws, the biggest two by Brad Davis, that gave the Terps a 78-72 lead with 2:16 to play. Those points followed a Hunter turnover and a blocked shot by Rollins on Brad Davis' drive to the hoop.
Driesell switched between man-to-man and zone defenses just to mix things up, he said, and the Terps handled Clemson's half-court pressure by putting Brad Davis in the middle, taking better advantage of 3-on-2 opportunities presented by Clemson's gamble with a trapping defense.
But the key was the hustle, which the Terps need more than the return of either injured starter, Steve Sheppard or Billy Bryant.
"We've got to be ready every game," said reserve guard Brian Magid. "We can't afford to with for a loss to pick us up. We've got to stay on an even keel."
A host of former Terp stars, including John Lucas, Tom McMillen, Mo Hoard and Len Elmore, were among the crows of 14,218 that came to see which face these Teps would show. Also in attendance was another former player, John Boyle.
"Hmmm, I see we play Pitt on Tuesday night," Boyle said after what Driesell called one of his rugged wins at Maryland. "I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if we lost. But, then again, we might win it big."