COLLEGE PARK -- Terence Morris sat out his second consecutive practice yesterday with a sprained left ankle, and the status of Maryland's All-America forward will be determined before today's game against Clemson. But don't expect any sympathy from the Tigers, Division I's poster child for Murphy's law.
Morris injured his ankle three days ago against Wake Forest and is in jeopardy of missing his first collegiate game for the No. 24 Terrapins (12-5, 1-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference). Clemson (6-11, 0-4), which is 219th in the Rating Percentage Index out of 318 Division I schools, has become all too familiar with the trainers' room and possibly could be down to only six scholarship players today at Cole Field House.
Still, the Terps were more worried about the health of Morris, their second-leading scorer (16.1) and rebounder (8.5), than the troubles of the ACC's only winless team.
"We'll see [today] if he can go," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who has not had to tamper with his starting lineup for all 17 games. "It's one of those things where you don't want a guy out there at half-speed or quarter-speed. If he can go, he'll play.
"It'll be great if he can play, obviously. If he can't, we still have to play. You can't let it affect you, that's all."
If the forward from Frederick cannot play or must limit his minutes, freshman Tahj Holden would seemingly benefit the most. Although Williams remained noncommittal about guaranteeing Holden that spot, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound forward from Red Bank, N.J., would be the likely choice to fill in for Morris.
Holden, who had 24 points in his first 16 games, broke out offensively against Wake, scoring 17 points in 18 minutes. After the game, Holden received a call from his mother before he returned to his room and another one while he was in the shower. The next day, his grandmother and two of his aunts also phoned him.
So Holden isn't one to shy away from the attention or back down from his first possible college start.
"If you don't want to play, you shouldn't be playing basketball -- not at this level," Holden said. "I'm not sure of Terence's status. But if it happens, it happens."
If anything happens at Clemson this season, the Tigers usually expect the worst.
Clemson has yet to have its full roster of scholarship players for one practice or game this season, as five Tigers have missed a total of 20 games because of injury. While the Tigers expect to dress 12 players, starting guard Edward Scott (cartilage tear in his chest) and reserves Ray Henderson (pulled groin) and Tomas Nagys (tendinitis in his Achilles') are all questionable.
The situation has become so bothersome that coach Larry Shyatt refuses to speak about injuries with the media.
On the court, Clemson has become the embarrassment of the ACC, falling to Wofford, Wisconsin-Green Bay and South Carolina State while beating two teams with winning records.
The season plummeted further with Wednesday's 72-60 loss at home to Appalachian State.
The players complained about their lack of effort. Shyatt had a lengthy closed-door meeting with his assistants the following day. And yesterday, Arturus Javtokas, a 6-10 junior forward who was averaging 3.8 points, decided to quit the team for personal reasons.
"I'm holding up fine, because I know that we will heal and will be better," Shyatt said. "I am just frustrated with the same thing I have been frustrated with for three to four months, and that has built because our personnel situation is unchanged."
Maryland's major focus will be on Clemson guard Will Solomon, who is averaging an ACC-best 21.6 points. Solomon also drew interest from the Terps a few years ago as a possible recruit before Maryland landed Steve Francis.
Maryland point guard Steve Blake, a game removed from a notable defensive performance, will guard Solomon. Blake held Wake's leading scorer, Robert O'Kelley, to four points on 1-for-9 shooting.
"It's funny, because we're playing back-to-back guards similar in style," Williams said. "You hope you can do the same thing. There's never any guarantees. Whether Steve can do it back-to-back games remains to be seen."
The Terps also stressed not overlooking Clemson, but didn't mind forecasting what a win would mean. With a victory, the Terps would inch closer to .500 in the ACC before playing at North Carolina and Florida State next week.
"We'll be ready to play," Williams said. "It's not like we're 4-0 [in the ACC]. We're still scratching. This is a key game for us. If we get this, we'll climb right back into the mix."
NOTES: Tickets for today's game are available. Clemson has been out-rebounded twice this season.
Time: 4 p.m.
Where: Cole Field House, College
Park TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
School....................... W-L ..........Pct. ................W-L ........Pct.
Duke ...........................5-0 .......1.000 ...............14-2........ .875