Maryland Is Good, Bad, Ugly

Article excerpt

It was clear from the start that yesterday's game at Cole Field House would not be pretty. The crowd of 14,500 was docile as it dealt with new restrictions and the team on the floor matched the energy vacuum.

And yet No. 9 Maryland, trying to put a two-game run of horrors behind it and gain some steam as it begins the second half of its ACC schedule, pulled out a 69-54 win over an overmatched Clemson team.

It wasn't easy for the Terps, who had to regroup after the Tigers cut the Maryland lead to four late in the game. That's when the crowd came to life, as did the Terps, who responded by working the ball inside to Terence Morris, who totaled 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

Maryland's 69 points were a season-low, but it gave a strong defensive effort as it allowed its fewest points of the season. However, the Terps still needed that late run to ensure an essential victory.

"It's an ugly win," said Maryland shooting guard Juan Dixon, who posted the second double-double of his career with 11 points and 11 rebounds. "But in January, February and March, it doesn't matter as long as you win. We just had to get a win."

It was the first Maryland game at Cole Field House since athletic director Debbie Yow instituted new behavioral guidelines for fans after a thrown water bottle hit the mother of a Duke player on Jan. 27.

Maryland (15-6, 6-3 ACC) won by limiting league leading scorer Will Solomon to 19 points on five of 14 shooting. The explosive guard torched the Terps for 32 points in Maryland's 104-92 win at Clemson on Jan. 2. Yesterday Maryland used bigger defenders, 6-foot-6 Byron Mouton and 6-8 Danny Miller on the 6-1 guard, and dared him to drive inside where the defense had help. The strategy worked. Maryland held Clemson to its lowest point total and shooting percentage (30.5) of the season and handed the Tigers (10-12, 1-8 ACC) their sixth straight loss.

The Terps won despite shooting 48 percent (10 of 21) from the foul line, and sleepwalking through parts of the game, including a dangerous series of defensive lapses that allowed the Tigers to get close.

Maryland is trying to get over the emotional toll of its loss to No. 2 Duke on Jan. 27 when the Terps blew a 10-point lead in the final minute of regulation. That disaster was followed by an embarrassing effort in a

99-78 loss at No. 11 Virginia on Wednesday.

"After you lose two, this is a good win because you don't have a lot of confidence," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, after his team beat Clemson for a seventh straight time. "You have to get [confidence] back and that's key during the season. To go through the tough times, and get your confidence back. I thought we did that as the game went along."

Terps point Steve Blake had a steady game and finished with a season-high matching 11 points as well as five assists, four rebounds and three steals and only one turnover.

Maryland outscored Clemson 30-6 in the paint and exploited the absence of the Tiger's 7-1 center, Adam Allenspach, who was out with back spasms. Terps center Lonny Baxter finished with his fourth double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds) of the season. The 6-8 junior got several of his boards in one possession when he missed three straight close shots, but got his own rebound before finally converting to give Maryland a 51-37 lead. …