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Terps advance team narrative in win over Clemson

One of the first things Maryland Coach Gary Williams said once he stepped to the podium Wednesday night following his team's nine-point victory over Clemson was that this was "one of those games where you find a little more about yourself as you go through the year as a team."

It seems somewhat odd that a team still can be experiencing self-discovery more than three-quarters of the way through a season, but Williams's point was valid. Sure, the Terrapins had tallied comeback wins previously this season. Why, just last week they rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to win at North Carolina State.

But N.C. State is not what most ACC observers would call a quality opponent. The Wolfpack stands 3-10 in conference play, tied with North Carolina for worst in the league. Put another way, it was much more understandable for the Terrapins to be trailing Clemson by nine at halftime Wednesday night than it was for them to be trailing N.C. State by 10 at the break last week.

Anyway, the point is that last night Maryland proved it could make the adjustments necessary to orchestrate a comeback against a quality (read: NCAA tournament-caliber) team. Clemson is athletic and quick and can apply pressure defense with the best of 'em. Oh, and apparently they can shoot three-pointers pretty well when afforded open looks. Who knew?

"There was really nothing good happening, except we shot the ball pretty well," Williams said of his team's performance in the first half Wednesday night. "That’s the only reason we were within nine points, I guess it was, at halftime. Because we couldn’t stop them, we couldn’t keep them off the glass and their press hurt us a little bit in terms of getting us out of what we were trying to do offensively. We had to change those things at halftime and be able to get into our offense when we didn’t have it against their transition.

"In other words, against pressing teams, and we’re a pressing team, everybody tries to do the same thing, which is attack, score when you have the opportunity, but then pull it back and run good offense if you don’t have a good shot. That’s easy to say, but in the pace of the game and the crowd and everything, that’s very difficult to do. That’s what we had to do the second half, and we did that, along with playing better defense and not giving them the second chances to just tap the ball in, which happened several times in the first half. It was a good test for us, not that you want to be in that situation against a team as good as Clemson, but we were there and we had to handle it and we did a good job in the second half."

Indeed they did. The Terrapins shot 60 percent and limited Clemson to 36.4 percent shooting after the intermission. Maryland also forced the Tigers to commit 10 second-half turnovers.

Maryland trailed by 15 points in the first half and 12 in the second, but the Terrapins persisted in their offensive approach and made a few defensive alterations that proved critical. They stopped providing so much help defense on whoever was guarding Clemson forward Trevor Booker (mostly, it was freshman forward Jordan Williams), which allowed them more personnel to devote to securing the perimeter. Clemson shot 21.4 percent (3 of 14) from three-point range and Booker tallied just two points in the second half.

Afterward, Williams was asked whether the manner in which his team had won would serve as some sort of statement.

"Well, you wonder if you can do that," Williams said. "And you can say, ‘We know how to press. We can come back if we get down a lot against a good team and all that.’ But doing it is a different thing. We did it tonight. We came back against a good team and hopefully that will give us some momentum going into the last three games."

Next up, Maryland will play at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Though the Hokies suffered a 20-point loss at Boston College on Wednesday, they have not lost at home this season.

"We fought back," Jordan Williams said Wednesday night. "We didn’t give up. We proved that we’re a strong team right to the end. We play 40 minutes, you know what I mean? Even though it looks like we’re not playing 40 minutes in the first half, down nine at halftime, down 15 in the first half, we still are not going to give up. I think that builds us up to say that, say, if we’re down at Virginia Tech, we know we can come back. We’ve done it before. We’ve been there, done that. And that just proves that we’re a good team."

By Steve Yanda  |  February 25, 2010; 8:12 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Last night was a thrilling W, but I am worried the team may become overly dependent on these furious comebacks. I would love to see another game where we control from start to finish like the blowout wins earlier in the year.

Posted by: jpfterps | February 25, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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