- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - Clemson had just lost to Maryland for the 14th consecutive time, and Tigers coach Audra Smith felt the need to provide an unsolicited opinion on the Terrapins’ pending move to the Big Ten.

“I have to say,” Smith said, “I’m not sad to see Maryland leave the ACC.”

Nikki Dixon led Clemson (11-14, 3-8) with 13 points and Chancie Dunn added 10. The Tigers fell behind 16-2 early and never recovered.

The final score might have been even more lopsided if the Terrapins (19-4, 7-3) and star forward Alyssa Thomas were forced to play at their very best.

“Honestly, I really didn’t feel like they were playing 100 percent,” Smith said of the Terps. “I felt like they were playing about 70 percent, but their 70 percent is like most team’s 100 percent.”

Thomas scored 22 points in 29 minutes, mostly on medium-range jumpers instead of her trademark drives to the basket.

“She wasn’t quite in her beast mode,” Smith said. “She was in mini-beast mode, which I appreciate. She’s just a phenomenal player. She just plays hard all the time.”

Brionna Jones scored 14 for the Terrapins, who opened with a 16-2 run, extended the margin to 21 points late in the first half and toyed with the Tigers the rest of the way. Maryland hasn’t lost to Clemson since March 7, 2003.

This was the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season. Maryland is slated to join the Big Ten next season, so unless the Tigers and Terrapins faceoff in the ACC tournament, it might be a while before Clemson gets the opportunity to end its lengthy losing streak against Maryland.

Smith isn’t complaining.

“We turned the ball over 27 times and they didn’t press us,” she lamented. “But their defensive tenacity, and the way they get up in your face and take things away, made it very difficult for us.”

Clemson trailed 4-2 before the Terrapins rattled off 12 straight points. Over the first seven minutes, the Tigers missed five of six shots and committed four turnovers.

A 3-pointer by Katie Rutan and a layup by Jones made it 23-6 before Dunn sank two straight jump shots. Dunn scored eight of Clemson’s first 10 points, but it became apparent quickly that the Tigers were decidedly overmatched.

After Clemson closed to 23-12, Thomas made three baskets in a 10-0 spurt that built the margin to 21 points. At that point, Thomas outscored the Tigers 15-12.

With Thomas on the bench, Clemson closed to 39-23 at halftime. But Jones opened the second half with two straight layups, and after Dixon scored, a 3-pointer by Maryland’s Katie Rutan made it 46-25.

Maryland finished with 39 baskets and 29 assists.

“Another dominant performance,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I really liked how we shared the basketball today as a team.”

Clemson, with only two seniors, hopes to one day be able to compete against a team such as Maryland.

“It’s a process,” Smith said. “It takes players. You have to recruit players who can play at this level. For us at Clemson, it’s going to take some time. But it’s definitely possible.”

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