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Maryland spreads offensive opportunities in win over Clemson

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2012

CLEMSON, S.C. — One of Maryland's main messages might finally be seeping through.

A basketball team with unbalanced scoring all season, the Terrapins shot well and wisely throughout Tuesday's 64-62 victory at Clemson. Maryland's points weren't balanced, but its distribution of offensive opportunities was in its first true road victory of the season.

Might this be a payoff of a recent re-emphasis?

"Little of late, or all season?" coach Mark Turgeon said with a smile.

He could afford the grin after the Terps (14-9, 4-5 ACC) nearly squandered a 14-point lead before fending off the Tigers (11-12, 3-6) in the final minute. After absorbing consecutive losses in the previous week and with a trip to No. 10 Duke looming Saturday, Turgeon would happily savor the chance at one good night of rest.

There also was reason to think players were listening even after reaching the midpoint of ACC play with a losing league record.

Maryland was imperfect — its defensive rebounding, a major issue in Saturday's loss to North Carolina, almost proved costly Tuesday — but the progress on offense for much of the game was noticeable.

"We talk about valuing possessions. We're not there yet — 15 turnovers — but the good news is we shot the ball well and were pretty efficient," Turgeon said. "I thought we screened better, and I thought our execution at the start of the second half was really good, and that's how we built that lead."

While sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin remains the Terps' primary scorer, he collected his 27 points on just 11 shots. Maryland's other four starters each attempted at least five shots.

An ability to hit open shots didn't hurt. The Terps were 8-for-11 on 3-point attempts, and their 72.7 percent night was their best performance from that distance since a 3-for-4 day in January 2007 against Clemson.

"I think all the guys shared the basketball throughout the whole game," guard Sean Mosley said. "I think we took shots that we knew we could take, and I think that bettered our chances of getting a win."

And win they did, creating mild separation with the bottom portion of the conference. The Terps are 4-0 against the five teams below them in the ACC standings, with two games against that group (next week's home date with Boston College and a Feb. 25 trip to Georgia Tech) still to come.

Few expected Maryland — pegged to finish ninth in the conference in the preseason — to make an appearance in the top half of the league. But it's still a possibility for a team that burnished its reputation for building decent leads and then almost frittering them away entirely in Tuesday's victory.

"By no stretch of the imagination are we a great team, but we're playing about as well as we can play, which I like," Turgeon said. "Hopefully we're going to get a lot better between now and March."

Doing so would mean Maryland further embraces Turgeon's priorities. The Terps' turnover issues ebbed for much of the second half Tuesday, only to resurface when Clemson switched to a 1-3-1 zone. Its rebounding and frontcourt effectiveness is wobbly at times.

But at least Tuesday, the Terps were a less-lopsided offensive team. Stoglin hoisted his second-lowest shot total of the season but wound up matching his fifth-best scoring night of the year.

"At the beginning of the game coach was telling us to value every possession and value the ball, so that's what we were trying to do," Stoglin said. "We didn't want to make too many turnovers, and we didn't want to shoot too quick."

It followed a message sent since the preseason. It might finally be taking root now. Better late than never for Turgeon and the Terps.

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