Clemson presses McIntyre into play Injured guard needed vs. Terps defense today

January 24, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

What kind of season has it been for Clemson point guard Terrell McIntyre? He missed three games last month because of a foot injury and hasn't been able to practice since Jan. 1.

What kind of a season has it been? His return to form as one of the top point guards in the Atlantic Coast Conference was delayed again this week after a Virginia player fell on McIntyre's foot in the closing minutes of the Tigers' 69-52 victory on Tuesday.

Asked about the challenges of facing Maryland's press today at Cole Field House (4 p.m., Ch. 54), Clemson coach Rick Barnes said, "We're in an uncertain situation because we're playing against their press without McIntyre." He was kidding. The 5-foot-9 junior will be available, though Barnes isn't sure for how long.

Why should the Terrapins care?

Because the pain McIntyre is feeling can't be any worse than what he inflicted on coach Gary Williams' team in Clemson's 78-65 win on Dec. 4.

The smallest man on the court stood tall at Littlejohn Coliseum that night. He scored the last four points of regulation, then hit from beyond the arc with 3: 29 left in overtime as part of a 13-0 run that got Maryland's ACC season started on, well, the wrong foot.

The Terps were clinging to a 65-61 lead with 1: 17 left in regulation when McIntyre buried a three-pointer from the top of the key, then forced Maryland point guard Terrell Stokes into a turnover along the baseline. He also was fouled with 16 seconds remaining and made one of two free throws.

McIntyre and senior guard Greg Buckner each scored 21 points, as Clemson's backcourt held the upper hand the entire game. McIntyre also had nine rebounds and nine assists.

Williams said yesterday that he expects McIntyre to be at full strength, but that would be wishful thinking if it came from Barnes.

VTC McIntyre, a preseason All-ACC pick who averages 13.4 points and 5.0 assists, suffered a deep bruise on the ball of his right foot in a Dec. 13 game at Illinois. Told that the only cure was rest, he missed victories over South Carolina, Seton Hall and Charleston Southern, and looked sluggish while scoring only five points against South Carolina State.

McIntyre aggravated the injury while preparing for a Jan. 3 game against North Carolina and played only 15 minutes. He was held out of practices after that to speed the healing process, a move that seemed to pay off when he scored 15 points off the bench in an 86-65 rout of Florida State on Jan. 13.

Finally, McIntyre was back at full speed. Finally, he would assume the look of a player chosen as the seventh-best point guard in the nation by Athlon magazine, one who stayed on the floor and under an opponent's skin.

If only it was that type of season.

"I don't think he's in as good [health] as he was going into the Virginia game," said Barnes, whose team is 12-6 overall, 3-3 in the conference.

"I've watched him play the last couple of weeks where he hasn't practiced and it amazes me a little bit how he's been able to go in and do what he's been doing. Going into the Virginia game was the most confident I had been because I felt like he was really, really close to being 100 percent. We felt if he came out of that game without aggravating it, he very well could be there by the Maryland game."

Another of Clemson's guards, junior Johnny Miller, reinjured a groin muscle against Virginia but also will play. Barnes said no matter what condition his backcourt is in, he expects the same aggressive approach from Maryland (11-6, 4-3). The opponent's health doesn't dictate the Terps' mode of attack.

"They're going to press, they're going to turn you over. They do an unbelievable job of doing that," Barnes said. "We obviously need [McIntyre] as much as anybody, but against Maryland, one guy's not going to take care of that press. It's the combination of your whole team, knowing where they have to be and what they have to do when they get the ball. We need to do a good job of taking care of the ball."

Better than Maryland did in the first meeting. The Terps committed 27 turnovers, a figure that still makes Williams uneasy.

"We have to do a better job with the basketball," he said. "When you turn it over 27 times, like we did last time, you're not going to win many close games.

"Hopefully, we can take care of the ball a little better. I think patience has something to do with that. We tried to score too quickly, rather than just letting the offense come to you. Hopefully, we'll do a better job."

Pub Date: 1/24/98

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