Maryland 52, Clemson 47
There was not much mincing of words today, as Maryland's players sat in the locker room and got dressed for the plane ride home.
"I know it had to be pain and suffering to watch that basketball game as a fan," guard Drew Nicholas said.
"If the stats don't tell you how ugly it was," forward Tahj Holden said, "then go watch the film."
"One of the ugliest games I've played in," point guard Steve Blake said. "It just wasn't fun to be out there."
And those were comments from the winning team. After rallying from a 12-point deficit for a 52-47 victory over Clemson today before 10,500 at Littlejohn Coliseum, the 12th-ranked Terrapins at least were smiling as they talked about what they considered a subpar performance in their 10th straight win over the Tigers, who scored the fewest points in a game by an ACC team in nearly a year.
"Very pretty to me," said Maryland Coach Gary Williams, whose team leads the nation in field goal percentage defense and held Clemson to 31.8 percent shooting today. "I've seen 20 games on television as ugly as that. You never know this year. We played hard, and Clemson played hard."
Playing hard and playing well, though, are very different.
Maryland (12-4, 5-1) shot a season-low 33.9 percent from the field and committed a season-high 20 turnovers to just 12 assists. (Clemson had 19 turnovers and four assists.) The Terrapins' point total was their lowest in more than seven years and their lowest in a victory since the 1985-86 season, when the shot clock was instituted.
Blake had a season-worst six turnovers. Center Ryan Randle had a season-low three points.
"I didn't play well; a lot of guys didn't play well," Blake said. "There wasn't any flow. It was ugly. There were too many turnovers. . . . Win any way possible, I guess."
In the opening 151/2 minutes, Maryland made just 4 of 20 shots along with a staggering 11 turnovers and trailed 21-9. It was enough to make Williams's face turn a shade of red that matched his necktie.
"You're just mad," Williams said. "You're not nervous because you're mad. I knew we could come back, but it didn't look like we were going to come back."
Going to a full-court press defense, however, turned the momentum. Clemson (11-4, 1-4) turned over the ball on five consecutive possessions, and Maryland capitalized each time, putting together a 15-0 run.
Calvin McCall started the stretch with a 17-foot jumper from the left side. Nicholas drove and fed Travis Garrison -- who had played a combined two minutes in the previous two games -- for a layup. After a steal by Blake, Garrison grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled as he made a putback and made the ensuing free throw to cut the deficit to 21-16.
"I've been on [Garrison] the last two weeks pretty hard in practice to be a more complete player," Williams said.
After the second of three consecutive turnovers by Clemson point guard Edward Scott (game-high 16 points), Garrison passed out of the post to Nicholas for a three-pointer from the right wing. Nicholas then stole the ball from Scott and a few seconds later made an open three-pointer from the right corner. All of a sudden, Maryland had the lead at 22-21 and Clemson was calling timeout.
As Nicholas walked out of the huddle to retake the court, with the crowd booing loudly, he clapped his hands, nodded his head and then raised his hands, motioning for the fans to get louder. Like his teammates, Nicholas had regained his confidence.
Clemson took its final lead at 27-26 on a free throw by Olu Babalola four minutes into the second half. Maryland countered with a quick 9-0 run, as McCall and Blake made three-pointers and freshman Nik Caner-Medley dunked a miss by Randle to give the Terrapins a 35-27 lead.
Maryland nursed the margin until the final minutes, holding Clemson to 4-of-18 shooting in the second half. However, a miss by Nicholas, a poor pass by McCall and a wild air ball by John Gilchrist gave Clemson a chance to tie in the final minute, trailing 50-47.
Scott's open three-point try from the left wing was too strong, though, and the Terrapins held on for their third consecutive victory and remained atop the ACC standings.
"It's a win, first and foremost," said Nicholas, who led Maryland with 14 points. "Don't let anybody else say anything about it. At the end of the day, it counts just as much as other games and we'll move on. . . . We really like our situation in terms of us being 5-1 and getting to play our next two at home."