- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

Maryland’s defense collapsed, turnovers flowed and opposing runs went unstopped. Little things once again undermined the Terrapins yesterday as they lost their fourth straight game.

“[Clemson] shot the ball better than us and just played better than us,” forward Nik Caner-Medley said. “You’re not going to win when that happens.”

The Terps fell to the Tigers for the third time this season, 84-72, because of lackluster perimeter defense and 23 turnovers in their first-round game at MCI Center. Maryland coach Gary Williams provided a biting postgame analysis of Clemson’s domination.

“They played harder than us in all three games,” he said.

Maryland finally managed a good start against Clemson, even leading 16-6. It was a stark turnaround from the previous two losses, when Clemson overran Maryland early.

But the Terps once again couldn’t stop Clemson streaks. The poor perimeter defense offset a strong effort to silence Clemson center Sharrod Ford (eight points). The Tigers pulled away early in the second half and Maryland appeared powerless to prevent a potential NCAA bid from slipping away.

“In the second half, we got away from running our offense,” Williams said. “Defensively, we just couldn’t stop them.”

Williams tinkered with his lineup yet again, trying to get one more shooter in the backcourt as well as a big man to bang with Ford. The Terps opened with a three-guard lineup, with Mike Jones on the floor to provide 3-pointers. However, Jones went scoreless on six shots while Caner-Medley and guard John Gilchrist each converted just one of seven in the first half. Maryland shot just 32.3 percent in the half compared to Clemson’s 53.6 percent.

The Terps’ offense switched to the frontcourt in the second half, with former starting forwards Travis Garrison and Ekene Ibekwe providing a slight lift. The pair, benched after slumping near season’s end, managed 12 points and 10 rebounds in supporting roles while 7-foot-1 center Will Bowers scored a career-high 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.

The trio neutralized Ford while the Terps outrebounded the Tigers 49-35, but Maryland didn’t stop Clemson’s outside shooting. The Tigers made 11 of 25 3-pointers.

“The last six, seven games, our defense has been poor,” Williams said. “That’s my biggest disappointment [this season] — that our defense didn’t get better.”

Clemson led 39-36 at halftime after a streaky start by both teams. Clemson’s 11-0 run gave it a 17-16 lead before Maryland countered with 10 straight points. Clemson then reeled off a 13-3 run to take a 32-31 lead. A Bowers putback was Maryland’s only field goal over the final 6:51 of the half.

Maryland closed to 45-42 with 16:27 remaining before Clemson scored seven straight points, and the Terps never challenged again. Maryland tried to flow the offense underneath, but it proved too erratic as Clemson led 65-53 with 8:20 left. The remaining minutes seemed an afterthought.

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