COLLEGE PARK -- Laron Profit had one last request for his Maryland teammates yesterday as he walked off the floor for good with 5: 10 left and Clemson ahead by six points.
"I told them to win this one for me," he said.
He may as well have asked them to build a new arena, too. By now, Clemson had seized control, and Maryland would have to take it back without its leading scorer.
And that's precisely what it did. The Terrapins used their trapping defense to force a couple of turnovers, rediscovered their touch from the foul line and rode the inspired play of senior guard Sarunas Jasikevicius to a 74-69 win over No. 25 Clemson before 14,500 at Cole Field House.
It was the fifth victory in six games for Maryland (12-6, 5-3), and its fourth this season against a ranked opponent.
Held to three points in the first half, Jasikevicius scored 12 in the last five minutes to finish with 20. He seemed to be everywhere, doing everything necessary to make Profit's wish become a reality.
He gave Maryland the lead for good, 64-63 with 3: 50 left, after joining guard Terrell Stokes in trapping Clemson center Mohamed Woni near midcourt, gathering the loose ball and going in for the layup.
On the Tigers' next possession, forward Iker Iturbe lost the ball out of bounds after being double-teamed by Jasikevicius and Stokes. Clemson center Tom Wideman picked up his fifth foul, and Maryland's Obinna Ekezie made two free throws for a 66-63 lead.
Earlier, Jasikevicius' driving layup had cut the Tigers' lead to 61-57. After Clemson's Greg Buckner was called for traveling, Jasikevicius hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to bring Maryland within one and the sellout crowd to its feet.
"You don't think about taking over the game in that situation," said Jasikevicius, who tied his career high with four three-pointers. "If the shot happens to be there, you take it."
"I think Sarunas, being a senior, decided to step it up," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "These guys are interesting. They always give us a chance to win."
Profit matched his season's average with 16 points, but had only three in the second half. They all came from the line, where Maryland went 9-for-10 down the stretch after going 9-for-17 in the first half. Ekezie added 12 points, including four free throws -- in the final four minutes, and Rodney Elliott had 10 points.
Junior guard Terrell McIntyre, who hasn't practiced since Jan. 1 because of a deep bruise on his right foot, scored 24 points off the bench for Clemson (12-7, 3-4) and has 45 in two games against Maryland this season.
Buckner, who had 21 against the Terps in a 78-65 overtime win at Littlejohn Coliseum on Dec. 4, was held scoreless in the first half and finished with 11 points to go with 12 rebounds and five assists.
"We depended on Terrell too much today," said Clemson coach Rick Barnes. "We stood around and looked too much."
Matt Kovarik's only shot of the first half, with 12: 13 remaining, resulted in a three-pointer and an 11-10 lead. Maryland didn't trail again until Kovarik fouled McIntyre on a shot from beyond the arc with 14 minutes left in the game.
McIntyre, who at various times had three different players assigned to guard him, made all three free throws to put Clemson ahead, 45-44. He buried a three to break a 48-48 tie, and his two free throws with 5: 21 remaining gave the Tigers a 61-54 lead.
Profit then made the first of two free throws, but missed the second and got his fifth foul going for the rebound. Less than two minutes later, Maryland had the lead.
"I was nervous when Laron fouled out, but the thing I liked is he really went after the ball. It wasn't a touch foul. He thought he made a good play and that's all you can ask," Williams said.
"I thought the key today was our ability to raise our level of play in the second half. When we got down seven, we didn't panic and we didn't give up. Against a team like Clemson, which is really good at controlling the tempo, I was really concerned when they got the lead. But we were able to still come back."
And hold on in the end. The Tigers got the lead down to one with 2: 40 left before Jasikevicius hit a three from the right corner to put Maryland up, 69-65. Clemson's Tony Christie later missed two free throws that would have tied the score with 33 seconds left, and Jasikevicius and Elliott each made two from the line.
Williams had switched to a zone in the second half after not being satisfied with his team's execution in the man-to-man, but changed back with less than 10 minutes left after Clemson hit a couple of threes. "We played better man-to-man all of a sudden, for whatever reason. We don't know why," he said.
"We had a lot of emotion. It was real high," Stokes said. "With Laron going out, we're an emotional team and we kept it going, kept playing Maryland basketball -- defense, traps, get steals, get buckets and get back."
Barnes was most upset about the two turnovers off the traps, which came with the ball in the hands of his frontcourt players, rather than his talented guards.
"We shouldn't have been in that position," he said. "We just didn't execute what we had talked about during the timeouts. Maryland is excellent in the open court and they fuel their transition with turnovers."
The Terps weren't burned by them this time. After committing 27 the earlier meeting with Clemson, they had only 13 yesterday.
Maryland, in third place in the ACC, has little time to savor this one. Next up, on Thursday, is league-leading Duke, which dished out a 104-72 beating at Cole Field House on Jan. 3.
Pub Date: 1/25/98