Making The Terps 'Scramble'
Maryland entered halftime last night in good shape, trailing by just six points despite shooting 38.3 percent from the field and making 1 of 6 three-point attempts. As has often been the case this season -- especially early in the ACC schedule -- the team's defense was what kept it within striking distance of its opponent.
But Clemson's approach differed from that of several previous opponents, who seemed either reluctant to hammer the ball into the post early and often or simply resigned to wait to do so until later on. The Tigers consistently fed the ball into forwards Trevor Booker and Raymond Sykes in the opening minutes, which enabled Clemson to diversify its attack as the half wore on.
The Terps had a plan for how to limit the effectiveness of a physically superior opposing frontcourt. They’d honed that ability over the past month of ACC play. The Terps also knew how to disrupt a team with deft long-range shooters. They’d had ample practice dealing with those scenarios, too.
Handling both at the same time, however, proved considerably troubling for Maryland.
"I think Clemson did a good job in the first half of making us scramble a little bit," Gary Williams said.
Clemson’s frontcourt was no bigger or taller than any other that Maryland had faced this season. But unlike previous opponents, the Tigers were intent on feeding the ball into the post from the game’s outset and leaving the Terrapins to deal with the consequences.
Early dunks by Booker and Jerai Grant served as the most direct results of Clemson’s game plan, but there were others. Clemson established interior superiority in the opening minutes, which enabled its guards more room to operate in the lane.
Tigers guard Demontez Stitt slashed into the lane with just less than six minutes remaining in the first half with senior forward Dave Neal and junior forward Landon Milbourne as his only remaining obstacles. But Neal and Milbourne were hesitant to leave their assigned men for fear of another dish-and-dunk. Stitt scored uncontested.
On offense, where the pace was kept on a frenetic setting the Terps typically enjoy, Maryland was unable to find much rhythm.
"We’re not the type of team this year that, you know, we can score in transition when we’re running our transition," Williams said. "But if we get out of that and we don’t get into our halfcourt sets, then we’re in trouble."
Williams remarked that the team ran only six or seven of its half-court offensive sets correctly in the first half. One player thought the offensive performance was worse than even that. Either way, the fact that Maryland's first half deficit stood at six when the horn sounded was impressive if for no other reason than that very little seemed to be going right.
"I think we did a pretty good job in the first half," junior forward Landon Milbourne said. "We were only down by six, and I don’t think we ran one play correctly."
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