Adrian Branch found his shooting touch and Maryland finally found success in an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game with an 80-61 victory tonight over Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Branch, who was in a terrible slump the previous four games, made his first four shots, seven of 10 two-pointers and finished with 19 points. His three-point field goal from 20 feet early in the first half put Maryland ahead for good, 12-9.
"As soon as Adrian hit that three-pointer, I knew he was back," said Maryland guard Jeff Adkins. "I thought we'd win tonight."
Branch also had eight assists and plenty of help. Center Ben Coleman scored a game-high 21 points on eight-for-13 shooting, including four straight baskets in the second half. Forward Mark Fothergill scored 11 points and had 12 rebounds. Forward Herman Veal had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Maryland had a 17-4 advantage from the free-throw line.
And the Terrapins (8-5, 1-3 in the ACC) received a superior performance in the back court from Jeff Baxter, who had nine points and five assists off the bench, and Jeff Adkins.
It was Adkins' three straight driving layups late in the final five minutes that enabled Maryland to score 15 straight points and turn a 65-56 game into a rout.
Clemson (6-10, 0-4), which remained winless in the ACC, was saddened by the death of Coach Bill Foster's father. Foster flew to the game from the funeral earlier this afternoon in Hemingway, S.C.
"I feel bad because of Coach Foster's situation," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said afterward. "I know his mind couldn't have been on the game tonight. I think that had something to do with the outcome."
Maryland held a 10-point lead at halftime, and led, 56-43, midway through the second half after an inside basket by Veal. But Clemson pulled to within 56-50 with seven minutes left on a three-pointer by freshman Anthony Jenkins and two baskets by forward Raymond Jones, who had a team-high 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Driesell called time with 6:54 remaining and put Adkins back in the game, which gave the Terrapins three guards and better ballhandling. Baxter, Branch and Adkins scored 12 straight for Maryland.
"I came in looking to drive," Adkins said. "I was looking for the fouls to go to the free throw line, but they all dropped."
Branch tried to keep his performance in perspective. "I'm trying not to get too excited about it. I still have to get better. I had some pretty nice practices this week, and I felt I could have a respectable game tonight."
Many of the Terrapins were somewhat mystified at how the team could win so convincingly here and play so well at North Carolina a week ago, but lose by 19 points to Duke at home.
Said Adkins: "We take the game more seriously on the road. At home, we try to make plays that aren't there."
The 8,500 fans at the Coliseum were surprised to see Maryland come out in black uniforms with gold trim.
Driesell said a the uniforms were donated by a Maryland alumnus from Pittsburgh. "He said he wanted us to look like the Steelers," Driesell said. "I said, 'Fine, you buy 'em, we'll wear 'em.' "