CLEMSON, S.C., FEB. 6 -- Maryland hit a lull midway through the second half tonight, and Clemson was waiting. The Tigers -- who won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title last season -- took advantange of the lapse and claimed their first 1990-91 league win after seven losses, 73-69 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Maryland came on at the end, closing an eight-point deficit to one within the final minute, but couldn't pull it out. Terrapins Coach Gary Williams wasn't complaining afterward.
"Clemson was desperate for a win," Williams said. "They had to get this one. And for us to come in here against that -- I don't have any problem with our competitive effort. I just told them that we have to execute better for 40 minutes.
"We don't play that well individually. We have to have good shot selection. When we take good shots, we're a pretty good team."
Maryland (12-9, 2-6 ACC) trailed 70-62 with 43 seconds to play but closed to within one after a short jumper by Garfield Smith, a basket by Evers Burns and a three-point play by Smith over the next 22 seconds. Clemson guard David Young hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds remaining to give the Tigers a three-point lead.
With 13 seconds left, Maryland guard Kevin McLinton missed a driving layup, but the Terrapins retained possession after the ball went out of bounds off a Clemson player. The ensuing inbounds pass went to freshman guard Mike Thibeault, who barely missed a tying three-pointer.
The carom was rebounded by Clemson center Dale Davis, who was fouled with nine seconds left. The senior, a 58 percent free throw shooter entering the game, missed the first but hit the second to provide the Tigers with the clinching points and a burst of fresh air. They improved their overall record to 10-11.
Davis was outstanding for the Tigers with 19 points and 20 rebounds.
Maryland was paced by Smith's 23 points and nine rebounds. Vince Broadnax had 21 points and six steals.
But those were the only bright spots for the Terrapins, who shot 37 percent and committed 21 turnovers, a collective effort that left many of the players personally shouldering responsibility for the loss.
"I let the team down, I take full responsibility," said McLinton, who was zero for nine from the field with seven turnovers. "A point guard is supposed to distribute the basketball, play smart and take good shots -- I didn't do any of those things."
Matt Roe, who scored 17 points on six-for-19 shooting, added: "I was taking the shots that were presented to me but I shot lousy -- if I had shot the ball the way I know I can we wouldn't have lost."
Center Cedric Lewis was one of six, and was in foul trouble after picking up his third and fourth fouls in the opening minute of the second half. Even Thibeault, who wasn't in the game for a full minute, had his head buried in his lap in the locker room afterward.
But Clemson really wasn't much better, committing 24 turnovers and shooting 57 percent from the free throw line. So despite all of their foibles, for much of the game it looked like the Terrapins were going to come away with the win.
Maryland established itself in the early going by holding the Tigers scoreless for nearly five minutes and getting 14 straight points to go ahead 23-12 with 10:40 to play in the first half.
Clemson began to come on from that point, but whenever it made a move to rally, Maryland would come up with an answer. In the final 10 minutes of the first half and the first 10 of the second, the Tigers closed to three points or less six times -- on four of those occasions, the Terrapins scored on their ensuing possession.
But a jump shot by forward Sean Tyson cut Maryland's lead to 47-45 with 10:27 remaining and Matt Downing and Roe were called for traveling on the Terrapins' next two possessions. With 9:06 to play, Eric Burks scored following a rebound to tie the score.
Smith came right back with a jump hook for Maryland, adding a jump shot after a pair of free throws by Broadnax to give the visitors a 53-47 lead. Tyson dunked and Lewis hit two free throws for Maryland to make it 55-49 with 7:03 left.
That's when the bottom began to fall out for the Terrapins, who got just two points over the next 5:40.
"We played hard; we had some spurts when things went well and some spurts when things didn't go so well," said Lewis. "The last ones kind of hurt."