Misfiring Terps let Clemson off the hook Home season ends with 81-73 defeat

February 28, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Cole Field House was rocking. Clemson was reeling. And the Maryland basketball team seemed ready yesterday for its second straight come-from-behind Atlantic Coast Conference victory.

But this didn't turn out to be another North Carolina State. It was more like the rest of this season's struggle through the ACC, as the Terrapins faded down the stretch and lost to the Tigers, 81-73, before a disappointed crowd of 14,380 and a national TV audience.

Trailing by eight points at halftime, and by 15 early in the second half, Maryland (11-13, 2-12) came back to lead by one with under eight minutes to play. That's when the offense went stale, the defense went soft and Clemson (14-10, 4-10) went home happy.

"Our one weakness is with shooting 40 percent in the ACC," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "This is an offensive league. It's not the Big East, which is more of a defensive league. It's a familiar story. We just didn't hit our shots."

If the Terps had reached 40 percent, they might have beaten the Tigers. But they managed just 28 of 80 from the field (35 percent) -- including two of 18 by senior guard Kevin McLinton -- and missed seven straight shots after center Chris Kerwin had tied the score at 65 with less than five minutes left.

Meanwhile, Clemson (29 of 56 from the field, 52 percent) made three straight shots and four of its next five in a 9-0 run. Three shots were by senior guard Chris Whitney, who made eight of 13 for the game (four of eight on three-pointers). Whitney and sophomore forward Devin Gray (St. Frances) each scored 23 for the Tigers.

"It was a good win for us," said Clemson coach Cliff Ellis, whose Tigers survived despite second-half foul trouble on sophomore center Sharone Wright (19 points, 11 rebounds, six blocked shots). "A lot of people don't realize how good a win that was."

Said Gray, who had 27 points in a 10-point win over the Terps last month, "When Sharone went out of the game, we had to step it up. We needed this one badly, and we played well to get it."

The victory kept the Tigers alive for a possible bid to the National Invitation Tournament. The defeat, the eighth in the last nine games for the Terps, all but locked up a place for them in the preliminary game of the ACC tournament.

With their chances of an NIT bid fading -- Maryland would need a .500 record -- the Terps will have to win the ACC tournament in order to qualify for the postseason. Maryland plays its two remaining regular-season games at Duke on Wednesday and at Virginia on Saturday.

"Anything is possible," said Williams. "You just go after it."

A victory yesterday certainly seemed possible after Maryland made a run similar to the one it had against the Wolfpack on Wednesday night. This time, the Terps scored 15 straight points to forge a 49-49 tie, then took a 61-60 lead on a three-point shot by Johnny Rhodes with 7:46 to play.

It was the first lead for the Terps since early in the game, when they had led by as much as 21-14. But the Tigers threw a box-and-one on Rhodes, who had made two straight threes and had forced a number of steals during Maryland's comeback.

"When they went to the box-and-one, we couldn't get the ball to my side," said Rhodes, who didn't get a shot off for more than four minutes. "So it was mostly Kevin throwing the ball to Exree [Hipp]. I couldn't get my shots, and that kind of shocked us."

It shouldn't have, considering that Maryland had prepared for the box-and-one for the last two days of practice and had seen it earlier in the game, with Andre Bovain guarding McLinton. The Terps didn't score a basket for more than four minutes in a 13-1 run by Clemson.

Except for forward Evers Burns, who finished with game-high totals of 27 points and 13 rebounds, it wasn't much of a "Senior Day." McLinton, who missed his first nine shots, ended with 10 points while Kerwin had seven on 3-for-12 shooting.

"I don't know what happened [down the stretch]," said Burns, who, along with McLinton, fouled out for Maryland. "We weren't in sync at the end. You have stretches when the ball doesn't go in. The only thing you can do is keep shooting."

Said McLinton, "The shots were there. They were shots I normally make. They just didn't go down today."

When they didn't, Maryland did.

NOTES: Rhodes set a Maryland single-season record for steals. He had six yesterday -- one shy of Walt Williams' single-game record -- giving him 66 for the season, two more than previous record-holder Dutch Morley. Sophomore forward Kurtis Shultz of Randallstown and freshman forward Nemanja Petrovic were named to the ACC's academic honor roll for having a 3.0 or higher grade-point average last semester. Yesterday's crowd of 14,380 -- 120 short of a sellout -- brought the season total of 175,217 for 15 dates, the most since the 1984-85 season.

ACC standings

7-.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Conf. .. .. ... Overall

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. W .. .. L .. .. W .. L .. Pct.

North Carolina .. .. 12 .. ..2 .. .. 24 ..3 .. .889

Florida State.. .. ..11 .. ..4 .. .. 21 ..8 .. .724

Duke .. .. .. .. .. ..9 .. ..5 .. .. 21 ..5 .. .808

Wake Forest .. .. .. .9 .. ..5 .. .. 18 ..6 .. .750

Virginia .. .. .. .. .8 .. ..7 .. .. 16 ..8 .. .667

Georgia Tech .. .. .. 7 .. ..6 .. .. 15 ..8 .. .652

Clemson.. .. .. .. .. 4.. ..10 .. .. 14..10 .. .583

Maryland .. .. .. .. 2.. ..12 .. .. 11..13 .. .458

N.C. State .. .. .. ..1.. ..12 .. .. 7..16 .. .304

Yesterday's results

Clemson 81, Maryland 73

Wake Forest 58, Virginia 56

North Carolina 86, Florida State 76

Today's games

Georgia Tech at N.C. State, 1

UCLA at Duke, 4

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