- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2005

For Maryland, perhaps madness already has begun.

After several blowout losses, the Terrapins beat two ranked teams, escaping nemesis Duke with a last-minute win on the road and handling Georgia Tech at home Sunday. Maryland returned to the polls Monday following a month-long absence and appeared ready to march toward its 12th straight NCAA tournament bid.

A day later, Maryland was routed 88-73 by Clemson, the ACC’s worst team, putting the Terps back on the bubble heading to Miami on Saturday.

Maryland (13-6, 4-4 ACC) never showed anything at Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday as Clemson jumped ahead 13-2. After rallying, Maryland missed its final 12 shots of the first half and trailed 45-29 at the break.

The Terps were ghosts wandering a half-empty arena instead of the conquerors of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“We obviously weren’t in a great frame of mind at the start of the game,” coach Gary Williams said. “I hope we learned about getting ready to play. It’s hard to play Sunday at 5:30, have to travel to Clemson and then play at 7 o’clock Tuesday. There’s no room to say, ‘Well, I wish we had another day.’ We didn’t.”

The Tigers entered the game with a five-game losing streak but outplayed Maryland from tipoff to postgame celebration, when the few students in attendance swarmed midcourt, barely covering the Tiger paw. Clemson (11-10, 2-7 ACC) probably will end the season with a losing mark, but the highlight probably will be the victory that ended a 13-game losing streak to the Terps.

Maryland got little from its frontcourt as forwards Ekene Ibekwe and Travis Garrison fouled out with more than eight minutes remaining, and center Will Bowers had his second poor start. Combined, the trio mustered only 12 points and nine rebounds, while Clemson center Sharrod Ford had 25 points and 10 rebounds alone.

The outside shooting wasn’t much better at 39.3 percent. Forward Nik Caner-Medley finally went cold after averaging 24 points over five games and being named ESPN’s national player of the week Monday. Caner-Medley was scoreless in the first 24 minutes and finished with nine points.

“I missed some shots I usually make, but overall they just played better than us,” he said.

Maryland never overcame Clemson’s pesky man defense, which finished with 13 steals. The Terps seldom penetrated, and when they did Ibekwe and Garrison often fumbled the ball away. Garrison managed only two rebounds after finishing with a career-best 15 against the Yellow Jackets.

The Terps twice were forced to play a three-guard lineup because of frontcourt foul troubles but converted just two of 11 3-pointers. The only offensive run — 21-9 for a 23-22 lead — was the result of layups and short jumpers. Guard John Gilchrist’s team-high 18 points included 12 free throws. He made just three of 12 shots from the field.

“We ran lousy offense,” Williams said. “I thought we settled early for outside shots, and that hurt us. We’re not the greatest 3-point shooting team. We have to know our strengths and weaknesses. We went away from our strengths.”

Four blowout losses at the midpoint of the conference season would make it easy to dismiss Maryland’s NCAA hopes. But both of the Terps’ remaining games against ranked opponents are at home, and Maryland still should reach the tournament if it can split its final eight games.

“We’ve played [Nos.] 2, 3 and 4 in the country on the road,” Williams said. “So the schedule goes our way the next eight games.”

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