- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

Maryland likely needs one more victory to earn its 12th straight NCAA tournament appearance.

Of course, the Terrapins have needed that same victory for 18 days.

Maryland will face Clemson in the ACC tournament’s opening round at MCI Center. With no more chances to seal the bid, the Terps (16-11, 7-9 ACC) either must beat Clemson (15-14, 5-11) — which swept Maryland in the regular season — or probably head to the NIT.

“I’m not the person that judges that,” coach Gary Williams said yesterday. “We had some great wins and tough losses. If we win against Clemson, that puts us in pretty good shape.”

It has been a strange year for the Terps. Maryland beat four ranked teams, including nemesis Duke twice, but was swept by Clemson and N.C. State and fell to ACC newcomers Miami and Virginia Tech. The Terps lost their final three games — any one of which might have left them comfortable in terms of the NCAA tournament — and beat only one team with a winning record over the final five weeks.

The 88-73 and 97-93 losses to Clemson were especially bothersome; the games kept the Tigers from finishing last in the ACC. Clemson trailed only 11 seconds combined in both games.

“Obviously, Maryland needs this game very badly,” said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, a former Maryland assistant under Lefty Driesell. “It’s a good matchup in one way; it’s a bad matchup in another.”

Said Tigers forward Sam Perry: “I know they’ve got revenge on their minds.”

Maryland finished last in the ACC in scoring defense. And the Terps’ struggles never were more evident than against the Tigers. Clemson scored at least 88 points twice against an ACC team for the first time since 1987, and the 97 points in the second game were the most ever by Clemson in a regulation ACC road game.

“What it comes down to with this team is defense,” Terps forward Nik Caner-Medley said. “We tried to outscore them. We just have to play better defense, stop [Clemson center Sharrod] Ford inside. Ford is a matchup problem for everybody because he’s such a good player.”

Ford averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the field against Maryland. Both Terps forward Travis Garrison and Ford grew up in Suitland, and Garrison shook his head in bewilderment over his friend’s success against the Terps.

“We have to contain him this game,” Garrison said.

Ford expects to be Maryland’s focal point. Then again, he was the focus of the second matchup and still finished a blocked shot away from a triple-double.

“They’ve got three or four big guys they try to throw at me,” Ford said. “It can kind of wear you down a little bit. I think I’ve just stayed strong and been real aggressive.”

Said Purnell: “If [Maryland] can just play him one-on-one, I’m not sure we win those other matchups.”

Clemson took large first-half leads in both victories but barely escaped in the second game Feb. 22. Purnell said he hoped the pressure of reaching the NCAA tournament might cause Maryland to fold again in such a case. The Tigers likely are headed to the NIT.

“I hope we do [get Maryland in a close game],” Purnell said. “Coming down the stretch, pressure might take over.”

Notes — Forward James Gist remains questionable with a sprained knee. … Guard Chris McCray was named to the ACC’s all-defensive team. North Carolina guard Jackie Manuel, Duke center Shelden Williams, Virginia Tech guard Jamon Gordon and Wake Forest forward Jamaal Levy also were honored.

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