CLEMSON, S.C. -- Several factors were working against the University of Maryland basketball team at Littlejohn Coliseum last night: Kevin McLinton's flu, Cedric Lewis' fouls and the Terrapins' winless road record in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.
It appeared for a while that Maryland would end that drought against a Clemson team that had yet to win in the ACC this season. But after leading for most of the night -- by as many as 11 points in the first half and by six with a little more than seven minutes left -- the Terps momentarily lost their poise and eventually the game, 73-69, before a crowd of 7,500.
"I thought the game was very winnable," said Lewis, who fouled out with 3 minutes, 40 seconds remaining. "It was just that we didn't put them away when we had a chance to."
Then again, neither did Clemson. After the Tigers scored 10 straight points in a 15-5 run to turn a 57-55 deficit into a 70-62 lead with 43 seconds remaining, Maryland (12-9, 2-6) made things interesting. Even without Lewis, the Terps cut their deficit to 70-69 on a three-point play by Garfield Smith with 21 seconds to go.
But David Young hit two free throws for Clemson (10-11, 1-7), and after Dale Davis lost the rebound of a missed drive by McLinton, freshman guard Mike Thibeault, a walk-on from Glen Burnie, missed a three-point shot from the top of the key. Davis was fouled and made the second of two free throws to secure the victory.
"I thought we got a good shot," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team will take a two-game losing streak into Duke on Saturday. "That's about as open a three-point shot as you can get with no timeouts left. If we had another timeout, we might have been able to do something different."
The victory broke a five-game losing streak for Clemson and helped the Tigers, last year's ACC regular-season champions, avert the embarrassment of possibly becoming the first team not to win a league game since Maryland in 1986-87.
Davis led Clemson with 19 points and 20 rebounds, and Smith had 23 points -- 17 in the second half -- for Maryland. Vince Broadnax added 21 for the Terps, and former Dunbar standout Sean Tyson sparked the Tigers' comeback with 11 of his 13 points in the second half.
"I'm glad we got the win, and I hope we will build from this," said Clemson coach Cliff Ellis. "Losing a game like this would have been devastating."
Said Davis: "I thought late in the game we didn't make good decisions. We threw the ball all around the place and almost let Maryland come back and take it. We gave them a chance to win, but we hit some free throws when we had to."
It was a game that neither team seemed intent on winning. Maryland led, 23-12, after a 14-0 run midway through the first half, but saw its lead chopped to 33-27 after not scoring the last 3:10 of the half.
Despite Lewis' picking up his third and fourth fouls in the first minute of the second half, Maryland still led, 55-49, on two free throws by its senior center with 7:03 left. Lewis' foul problems didn't seem as significant when Davis was charged with his fourth 32 seconds later.
"It was a matter of which big man got his fifth foul first, and unfortunately it was Cedric," said Maryland guard Matt Roe. "He's our anchor on defense."
And without their anchor, the Terps sunk. Though Lewis had four blocked shots to break his brother Derrick's single-season record -- he now has 116 -- he did not have much of a night offensively (1-for-6, four points). And unfortunately for Maryland, he wasn't alone.
Roe finished with 17, but was six of 19 from the field. McLinton, who had been steady playing point guard for an injured Walt Williams, didn't score, missing all nine shots he took from the field while committing seven of Maryland's 21 turnovers.
"I played a horrible game," said McLinton, who didn't practice Tuesday or take part in yesterday's shoot-around. "I was sick, but that's no excuse. I'll shoulder the blame for this loss. It's terrible when 11 other guys play hard and one guy doesn't do his job."