Terence Morris watched from the end of the bench yesterday in a black sweater and black pants, his sprained left ankle having forced him to miss a game for the first time he could remember. However, Maryland's players had little problem handling Clemson in Morris's absence, easily defeating the undermanned Tigers, 74-62, before 14,500 at Cole Field House.
"It was tough" watching, said Morris, a preseason all-American and the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year. "But we won the game, so it was not that tough."
Maryland Coach Gary Williams said he expects Morris to play Wednesday, when the 24th-ranked Terrapins (13-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) travel to No. 21 North Carolina, where they have won three of their last four games.
However, Morris said that he still feels some pain in his ankle when he walks down steps or down a hill. He said he has not attempted to run or jump since being injured last Wednesday, when an opponent stepped on his foot late in a 73-51 victory over Wake Forest.
The Terrapins have today off and resume practice Monday, when Morris plans to test his ankle.
"Right now, I still have pain," Morris said. "I am getting a lot of treatment. Things are coming along."
Morris's absence was not a problem yesterday. Freshman Tahj Holden made his first career start for Maryland and had 12 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. Guards Steve Blake and Juan Dixon also played well and Maryland made enough of its school-record 31 three-point attempts to defeat Clemson and climb into the middle of the pack in the ACC. Except for Duke (6-0 ACC), every team has at least two conference losses.
Depleted by injuries and departure of reserve Arturas Javtokas, the Tigers (6-12, 0-5) have lost six consecutive games, equaling their longest losing streak since 1984. Only six players who began the season on scholarship were available yesterday.
"They made a couple shots, but we never felt threatened," Williams said. "We had control."
Maryland gained control early. After Clemson scored the game's first basket, Maryland scored 10 consecutive points and pulled away late in the first half. A three-pointer by Dixon gave the Terrapins a 31-17 lead. Later, center Lonny Baxter converted a three-point play and a putback to push the lead to 38-19.
Clemson pulled to 52-41 with eight minutes remaining, but the Terrapins quickly responded. A steal and layup by Blake and a three-pointer by forward Danny Miller helped pad the lead to 61-41.
Dixon made 4 of 7 three-point attempts and finished with a game-high 18 points. As a team, the Terrapins made a season-high 10 three-pointers as Clemson played either a zone defense and a box-and-one defense, consistently leaving outside shooters open. Miller, who had never taken more than nine shots in a game, was 3 of 13 from three-point range.
Blake had 10 points and seven assists, with just two turnovers. He also helped limit Clemson's Will Solomon to 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Solomon entered as the ACC's leading scorer at 21.6 points per game. Solomon also had six turnovers.
"This is a big win," said Dixon, who also had nine rebounds. "Without Terence, our leader, everybody's all-American, we showed a lot of people we can win without him."
The Terrapins got an offensive boost from Holden. In his first significant action this season, he had 17 points and six rebounds against Wake Forest Wednesday. He followed that performance by making 4 of 6 shots and shooting a game-high seven free throws yesterday. However, he played only nine minutes in the second half because Williams thought he was tired.
"Obviously when he was in there, he did a great job for us," Williams said. "That is new for him, playing for that much time. He has not had to do that. Game conditions are different than practices. You get tired quicker in games. It takes a long time to get into shape for games."
Terrapins Notes: Although Duke is unbeaten in the ACC, Miller said the Terrapins can win the regular season title.
"I don't think it is a race for second," Miller said. "Duke is going to get their losses."