When Maryland's 18-point lead was cut to nothing midway through the second half yesterday and the rest of the Terrapins stood around wondering what had hit them, Dutch Morley took over.
The 6-foot-2 senior guard from De Matha High School got two rebounds, made two steals and sank six straight free throws in the final three minutes to help Maryland defeat Clemson, 62-57, in an Atlantic Coast Conference game before 10,550 at Cole Field House.
Maryland was led in scoring by freshman Adrian Branch's 16 points and center Charles Pittman's 15; Herman Veal had 10 rebounds. But Morley's exceptional performance more than anything else enabled the Terrapins to win.
"Dutch is an all-around player," said Pittman. "Whatever we needed in those last three or four minutes, Dutch was able to do."
Maryland (9-5, 2-4 in the ACC) took a 54-53 lead with 3:16 to play, on a free throw by freshman Jeff Adkins, who drew a charge from Clemson forward Joe Ward. Adkins missed the second free throw and the Tigers (8-4, 1-3) had a chance to take the lead for the first time since the opening basket.
But Morley, one of the smallest players on the court, rebounded a missed Clemson shot and was fouled by Milan Belich. Morley made both free throws for a 56-53 Maryland lead, with 2:46 remaining.
On Clemson's next possession, Morley reached into a tangle of players and tipped the ball free, before chasing it down to the right of the Clemson basket for the steal. He then passed to Pittman, who found Adkins underneath for a layup and a 58-53 Maryland lead with 1:48 to play.
Morley made Maryland's final four points on free throws; he scored a season-high 12 points and made all eight of his free throws.
"Dutch played a great game," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said. "And he did it by doing so many different things."
Morley couldn't understand why everybody was making such a fuss, but said he was happy with the way he played, especially down the stretch yesterday.
"When everybody is sort of standing around like they were, I'll maybe dive on the floor or go for a steal, or do something out of the ordinary to get things going again. That's what I did this time."
When asked about his rare rebounding (five for the game), Morley said, "From the beginning of the game, the ball just seemed to bounce around a lot. So, since all the bodies were packed underneath the basket, I just decided to move in some in case the ball bounced out long. And a couple of times, I just decided to go in after it."
Morley's late-game heroics saved the Terrapins from losing another game in which they had a sizable halftime lead.
At halftime, Driesell reminded the Terrapins they had led Virginia by 10 points at the half before losing. "I told them since we were winning by 13 (35-22 at the half) we should win by 26. But the first thing I knew, the game was tied up."
A patient offense, 36 percent shooting by Clemson and only four Maryland turnovers in the first 20 minutes enabled the Terrapins to build their lead. Maryland's margin was 42-24 two minutes into the second half behind Veal's three-point play and Morley's driving layup.
But Maryland got sloppy, committing four straight turnovers and missing two shots in six possessions. Five Tigers scored 12 straight points against Maryland's zone defenses and pulled within 42-36 with 11 minutes to play.
Clemson was helped by the fact that it made 14 field goals in the second half to Maryland's six.
Behind the scoring of Belich, Horace Wyatt and Vince Hamilton, Clemson cut its deficit to 53-51 with 4:19 left, then tied it, 53-all on Wyatt's tip-in. But Wyatt fouled out on the next play, and Clemson fell behind for good.