COLLEGE PARK RHC B — COLLEGE PARK -- The last time a national television audience tuned in to the Maryland basketball team, the Terrapins were winning an ugly game over Providence in the ACC-Big East Challenge. They were 4-0 at the time, headed toward a 7-1 start.
It seems like a long time ago.
Today, when the ESPN cameras come on at Cole Field House for a 12:30 p.m. game between Maryland (7-9, 0-6) and Clemson (9-4, 1-3), the Terps will be trying to break an eight-game losing streak and get their first victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. The game will be carried on Ch. 2 and blacked out locally on ESPN.
"There's a hump there, no doubt about it," Maryland coach Gary Williams said yesterday before practice. "I think we've played our best basketball of the season against Florida State and against Wake Forest until Walt [Williams] got into foul trouble. If we get a win, things look a lot different when you come to practice and watch films. You just get excited again."
The Terps will try to get over a hump against a team that hasn't won on the road in the ACC in almost two years, a stretch of 11 straight games. But the Tigers are also coming off their first league win this season, a 51-48 victory Wednesday night against Virginia.
Maryland's two recent defeats have been studies in contrast, but with the same frustrating result. The Terps got off to a horrendous start against the Seminoles, fell behind by 14, caught up, had a chance to win in regulation and lost in overtime, 91-83. Against the Demon Deacons, Maryland had an 11-point lead in the second half evaporate after Walt Williams picked up his fourth foul. The Terps lost, 86-76.
"We feel confident we can win," said Walt Williams, who is coming off a career-high 39-point performance against Wake Forest. "Our record does not reflect how well we've played. Definitely, we want to win, but we're not going to hang our heads."
If a little of Williams' recent shooting accuracy can rub off on some of his teammates, especially fellow guard Kevin McLinton, the Terps will straighten themselves out. Since moving from the point guard spot four games ago, Williams has taken over as the ACC's leading scorer (25.3).
Williams is the first player in Maryland history to score 30 or more in four straight games, and the first in the ACC to do it since the legendary David Thompson at North Carolina State in 1975. In that stretch, he is 47 of 80 from the field, including 17 of 33 from three-point range.
The rest of the Terps have not had that feeling of late, if at all this season. McLinton has watched his shooting fall to a shade over 40 percent by going 4-for-24 the past two games. Senior forward Vince Broadnax is at a little under 43 percent for the season. As a team, Maryland is shooting 45 percent.
"We haven't been shooting too good," said Broadnax. "It would help if we stepped up our offense."
Clemson's record, beefed up by a schedule that Betty Crocker would have been proud of, belies the problems the Tigers have had on and off the court. They lost sophomore forward Wayne Buckingham with a season-ending knee injury, senior guard David Young to academic troubles and might be without junior forward Corey Wallace today because of a separated shoulder.
"This team has had a rain cloud over it," Clemson coach Cliff Ellis said earlier this week. "You look at any team that loses two major players and they're going to struggle. We know that we'll bounce back. Our day will come."