UM upset again by Clemson in 97-93 loss

Terps' NCAA tournament hopes take hit as last-place Tigers sweep season series

February 23, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The lasting image of a miserable night for the Maryland Terrapins took just 2:19 to develop. Fed up with his team's awful start against Clemson in a game he had deemed more important than any other this season, coach Gary Williams yanked all five of his starters.

Then just 2M-= minutes later and with Williams still seething, he pulled the five players he had just inserted. And things never got much better for Maryland.

The Terps suffered a brutal loss, falling to Clemson, the last-place team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, 97-93, at Comcast Center and missing out on a chance to all but seal an NCAA tournament bid.

"I was disgusted." Williams said, explaining his decision to remove the starters so early in the game. "We weren't moving. We weren't doing any thing."

Maryland, which was swept by the Tigers for the first time since the 1996-97 season, fell to 16-9 overall and 7-7 in the ACC. The Terps have two regular-season games left: Sunday at home against No. 2 North Carolina and March 5 at Vir ginia Tech.

They probably will need to win at least one of them to be assured a 12th straight NCAA tourna ment berth. Since 1992, only three league teams have finished the regular season 8-8 or better and not made the NCAAs.

In a season full of disappoint ing effort, the Terps likely hit a low last night in failing to beat Clemson (13-13 , 3-10), consider ing all that was on the line.

"We got into a hole early and never got of it." Williams said. 'It's very disappointing to say the least. We couldn't do it back- to-back [after Saturday's victory over Virginia]."

Terps point guard John Gilchrist suffered through an other difficult game, shooting 4-for-16.

"That's the story of our team, up and down. I can't explain it. I have no clue." Gilchrist said. 'There's a swagger winning teams have about themselves. We"re just searching for identity. We"re still trying to put pieces to gether."

Junior forward Nik Caner- Medley, who led the Terps with 23 points, said: "It doesn't make any sense for us to lose this game."

At the heart of Maryland's troubles was its inability to stop Clemson's offense. The Tigers, who shot 50 percent from the field in a 15-point win in South Carolina three weeks ago, shot 58 percent last night, including 66.7 from three-point range.

Senior Sharrod Ford led the Tigers with 24 points and had 10 rebounds and nine blocks as Clemson enjoyed its highest point total of the season.

The Tigers had a 10-point half time lead, but the Terps were clearly a more inspired team than they had been at the start of the game.

McCray (21 points) pulled Maryland within 58-52 with 15:23 remaining, but Ford, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds when the Tigers beat the Terps by 15 on Feb. 1, started to assert himself.

Ford, a Suitland native, scored eight straight points, answering the Terps every time they ap peared ready to take the lead. The last of those eight points gave Clemson a 66-61 lead with 11:10 remaining.

Clemson expanded that lead to 70-61 with 10:09 left on four straight points from junior guard Shawan Robinson. It was 72-63 with 7:44 to play after he spun and dunked over Terps 7-footer Will Bowers.

Robinson then knocked down a huge three-pointer as the Ti gers reclaimed a 10-point lead (79-69) with 5:15 to play.

Two Mike Jones free throws with 2:20 left pulled Maryland within 87-81. It was only a four- point game when Travis Garri son stroked two free throws with 1:44 to go.

But Clemson hit its free throws down the stretch, built its lead back to as many as eight points and held off the Terps.

After watching his team fall behind 8-2, an irate Williams yanked the whole starting five 2:19 into the game. Then, the Ti gers" lead swelled to 16-4 and 2M-= minutes later, the Terps" starters were all back in.

Williams, who said during the week that this game was every bit as important as the victory over Duke earlier this month, stalked around his bench, shout ing seemingly at every Terp. McCray, a team captain, also got on his knees while the starters were on the bench and delivered a passionate lecture, but the message took awhile to resonate.

Only seven minutes into the game, the Terps had six turn overs and trailed 21-6. McCray (10 first-half points) and Garri son (11 first-half points) led a comeback. McCray's three- pointer and two straight buckets from Garrison trimmed the Ti gers" lead to 38-33.

But Maryland's problem was on the defensive end. Clemson hit 14 of its first 23 shots and fin ished the half shooting 55 per cent from the field. The Tigers hit five of seven three-point at tempts and went into intermis sion leading 49-39.

Next for Maryland

Matchup: No. 2 North Carolina (23-3, 11-2) vs. Maryland (16-9, 7-7)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Sunday, 5:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

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