Terps, Booth take control, top Clemson Junior scores 17 in 65-60 victory over No. 18 Tigers

Ekezie gets 11 rebounds

Stokes, Simpkins spark winning run

January 25, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- He doesn't consider himself Maryland's go-to guy, but for the second straight game, Keith Booth was the man the Terps went to when things got tight last night.

Booth pounded inside for 17 points, including six of the team's last 10, and the Terps outlasted 18th-ranked Clemson for a critical 65-60 Atlantic Coast Conference victory before 14,220 at Cole Field House.

"We got to the point where somebody just had to step up," the Baltimore native said after Maryland (9-6, 2-3 ACC) notched its first win of the season against a ranked opponent.

"I don't consider myself the go-to guy, but I just want to continue to work hard."

On a team of hard workers, Booth might be the hardest of the bunch. A junior co-captain, he raked Clemson's big front line for a season high in points and cashed in nine of 12 free throws in his expanded role.

"Keith Booth through the stretch was saying all the right things to the young guys," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He was better than a coach saying them. And he played great."

It took withering defense, Booth's late-game heroics and a realigned backcourt of Terrell Stokes and Duane Simpkins to get the Terps over the hump that Clemson created.

The Terps had squandered a 14-point first-half lead midway through the second when Williams went to his small-guard look with Stokes at point guard and Simpkins on the wing.

Stokes entered with 9:52 left and the Terps down 47-45.

"Terrell got us moving quicker," Williams said. "It gives us a different look with him in there with Duane and Johnny [Rhodes]."

When Andrius Jurkunas hit a three-pointer with 7:43 left, Clemson (12-3, 3-3) owned a 50-49 lead. It would be the Tigers' last. The Terps outscored injury-depleted Clemson 20-13 down the stretch.

Obinna Ekezie, who was a force inside with a season-high 11 rebounds, put Maryland ahead with a baseline move after getting a low-post pass from Stokes.

Stokes hit a jumper to make it 53-50 and Rhodes, who scored 17 for the night, hit two free throws.

"Coach put me and Duane in at the end to get fouls and keep their defense on its heels," Stokes said.

Clemson answered with a three-point shot by 5-foot-8 freshman point guard Terrell McIntyre (22 points) to cut Maryland's lead to 55-53. That's when it became Booth time.

With just over four minutes left, Rhodes logged one of his five steals, passed to Booth inside and the 6-6 forward made a power move to the hoop for a big basket.

"Keith's doing such a good job, I try to find him whenever I can," Rhodes said. "We're getting a good inside-outside combination."

Clemson got within two when the Terps went outside. Simpkins (10 points) hit a three from the top of the circle to make it 61-56.

Back inside: When Jurkunas missed a three in the final minute, Booth rebounded, was fouled and hit both free throws to make it 63-58. Maryland missed four of its last six free throws in the last 46 seconds, but Clemson never threatened.

The strong finish helped Maryland jump from eighth in the ACC to fifth, and, on the heels of an overtime win against North Carolina State, put new life into the team.

"It says we've developed a certain discipline down the stretch," Simpkins said.

"We're building up to where we want to be," Rhodes said.

Back from the dead after an 0-3 start in the ACC, the Terps travel to Durham, N.C., for another big game Sunday against Duke. The offense is coming around, the rotation is falling into place and the defense is becoming more consistent. Against the team that protects the ball best in the ACC, the Terps forced 18 turnovers, coming up with nine steals.

"This team has been through a lot of close games," Williams said. "We're close. The offense isn't there yet.

"Mentally, we are in pretty good shape. We're a lot tougher. I'm not sure we could've played that tough defense three weeks ago."

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