Maryland seeks to break Clemson's home jinx

February 26, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

CLEMSON, S.C. -- It doesn't have the insanity of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium or the expanse of North Carolina's Smith Center. Nor does it house the powerhouse teams of the Blue Devils or Tar Heels.

But Littlejohn Coliseum has proved a huge obstacle for the Maryland basketball team over the past decade, an obstacle the Terrapins hope to overcome when they play today against Clemson in an Atlantic Coast Conference game.

"If you're a player, once you walk into a place like Cameron or the Dean Dome, you get fired up," Maryland coach Gary Williams said yesterday. "I've always felt at Littlejohn, it's up to you to get fired up. It takes a real focused team to win there."

The Terps (15-8, 7-6) will be looking for their first win on Clemson's court since the 1987-88 season. Their 81-73 loss last year was the fourth straight for Williams, and it started the Terps, 10-5 going into that game, on a seven-game ACC losing streak.

Maryland also must regain the concentration it clearly lacked in the first half of Wednesday's 79-71 loss at North Carolina State. The Terps, who had won three straight, fell behind by as many as 27 points in the first half, were down 25 at halftime and cut their deficit to five twice in the second half.

"You try to figure out what happened," Williams said. "There's been a lot written about us needing one more win [in the ACC] to make the NCAA tournament. It could have been that.

"Maybe because the first game was a [32-point] blowout, there's a tendency for a young team to think that it will happen again. There's no senior kicking you in the butt telling them that they just can't show up. It cost us a game. We haven't blown one like that all year."

Maryland needs to win one of its three remaining regular-season games to ensure a .500 record in the ACC and, most likely, an NCAA tournament bid. A victory over Clemson (13-13, 4-9) would ease the pressure going into home games next week against second-ranked Duke and Virginia.

"It [the loss to N.C. State] made us look ourselves in the eye," said sophomore forward Exree Hipp, who missed seven of eight shots and fouled out after 32 minutes, with five points and three rebounds. "It showed us that, on any given night, we can lose to anybody just as much as we can beat anybody. We have to come out with more emotion."

Emotions will have a lot to do with the outcome of today's game. The Terps can't afford to come out as flat as they did against N.C. State, and they will have to shoot well to silence what could be -- but not necessarily will be -- an uncharacteristically charged Clemson crowd.

"It's probably going to be different because of Cliff," said Williams.

Not only is it Senior Day here, but more significantly, it marks the final home appearance of Cliff Ellis after 10 years as the Tigers' coach. Ellis announced his resignation last month, effective at the end of the season. Providence coach Rick Barnes is considered the leading contender for the job.

Despite an offer from the administration to give him back the year on his contract -- this after he negotiated to give up that year rather than be fired last summer -- Ellis will leave Clemson as the winningest coach in school history. He will be honored in a ceremony before today's game.

After the Tigers upset then-second-ranked North Carolina here last week, the crowd stormed the court to celebrate one of the school's biggest upsets. Ellis received dozens of phone calls at home, including one from Wake Forest coach Dave Odom and his wife, who sang "Tiger Rag" into the answering machine.

"There will be a lot of reflections as I've gone on the court this

week," said Ellis, whose 172-125 record at Clemson includes eight victories in nine home games against Maryland. "A lot of flashbacks. Hearing 'Tiger Rag' as I walk through the tunnel still gives me the chills."

Coming to Littlejohn doesn't give Maryland the chills. Usually just nightmares.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.