Terps don't want recent history to repeat itself against Clemson

Incentive not likely a problem after road loss to lowly Tigers

February 22, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams would prefer the Terrapins remember how they felt after outlasting Virginia, 92-89, in two overtimes Saturday, though at least one Terp can't seem to forget about that brisk walk off Clemson's court earlier this month.

Junior forward Travis Garrison was among five Maryland starters who were on the bench long before the final buzzer sounded in the 88-73 loss to the Tigers, the last-place team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

On that night, Clemson shot 50 percent from the field and held the Terps to 39 percent shooting, including keeping them without a point for the last 6:40 of the first half.

At one point in the game, Tigers senior center Sharrod Ford, a Maryland native who bulled his way to 25 points and 10 rebounds, ran back down the court laughing after yet another Clemson dunk.

"They were out there having fun while we were getting beat up a little bit," Garrison said. "They kind of embarrassed us. We didn't play good and they played very good. You have to take things like that personal. In this situation, we get to play them again at our home and the result has to be different."

The Tigers (12-13, 2-10), who will visit Comcast Center tonight at 8 to face Maryland (16-8, 7-6), haven't won a league game since beating the Terps on Feb. 1 and are still last in the ACC.

Yet for Maryland, which dropped from the Associated Press rankings for a third time this season, retribution will not be the focus - getting another win and possibly cementing an NCAA tournament bid will.

A victory would give the Terps, who have two games remaining after tonight, that key eighth league win, one more than they had last season. Since 1992, 57 of 60 ACC teams that have finished 8-8 or better in the league have gotten invitations to the NCAA tournament.

"As a team, there comes a point where you have to understand what you need to do," said junior forward Nik Caner-Medley. "You can't just sit there and say, `Well, we just want to win the next game.'

"We need to get to eight wins and we'll make the tournament, I think. Numbers don't lie. We've had some pretty good wins on our resume."

Williams said the Terps have yet to start thinking about the ACC or NCAA tournaments, but the importance of tonight's game is especially not lost on Maryland's 16-year coach, who said tonight's game "has become just as big as the Duke game in terms of what it means to us."

The Terps are tied for fourth in the ACC with Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech is 6-6, a half game behind. In the ACC tournament's new format, the top five teams in the league will get a bye next month at MCI Center. Every other team will be forced to win four games in four days if it hopes to capture the tournament championship.

"Honestly, my goal is to win the rest of our games," Caner-Medley said. "I think we can put ourselves in a pretty good position."

Said Williams: "That is something that, if we win, we take care of. It is important, obviously, if you only have to play three [games] instead of four ... but I don't think of it in those terms. When the regular season is over against Virginia Tech [March 5], we'll look at where we are and we'll do what we have to do."

The task tonight for the Terps is to do everything better than what they did in the first meeting with Clemson, especially on the defensive end against Ford (averaging 14.7 points, 8.0 rebounds).

Caner-Medley, Chris McCray and Will Bowers played in that game, but all three had the flu. Still, Garrison and Williams said the Terps had no excuse for their lackluster effort.

"We just didn't play hard," Williams said. "Players remember that. You don't have to go into much detail for them to remember."

Meanwhile, Clemson is trying to rediscover the form it showed that night. Tigers coach Oliver Purnell surrounds Ford in the starting lineup with three freshmen and a sophomore.

The Tigers' lack of experience has showed late in games. They are just 2-6 on the road this season, though seven of those eight games were decided by single digits.

"A lot of things went well for us," Purnell said of his team's victory over Maryland.

"We played with a lot of energy. We defended well. We did a great job on Caner-Medley. We did a nice job of keeping [John] Gilchrist from penetrating. It was certainly one of our better games of the year and we have pointed back to it on a few occasions."

NOTES: Gilchrist is 18 points shy of reaching the 1,000-point plateau, and Caner-Medley needs 27 points to hit that mark.

Maryland tonight

Matchup: Clemson (12-13, 2-10) vs. Maryland (16-8, 7-6)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

Time: 8

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 12 1/2

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