Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Revisiting Maryland vs. Clemson

Even though Maryland (19-7, 9-3) lost by six to William & Mary in late December, the worst the Terps have looked this season was against Clemson on January 31 in a nine-point loss on the road. In that game, Maryland committed 26 turnovers, shot only 34.6 percent from the field, and were outrebounded by six. The Terps also made just two of 10 three-pointers and dished out only eight assists.

Maryland struggled against Clemson -- there's no denying that. The Tigers played phenomenal defense and forced Maryland to work for every single basket. The Terps turned the ball over way too much and never seemed to get in a rhythm. They were also bothered by Clemson's size: Trevor Booker (6'7) had two blocks, Jerai Grant (6'8) had four blocks, and David Potter (6'6) had two blocks. Jordan Williams (13 points, 13 rebounds) didn't receive much help in the paint from his teammates.

But that game took place almost a month ago, and since then Maryland has been on a roll, winning five conference games (Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia, N.C. State, and Georgia Tech) and losing just one (at Duke). Clemson has also played pretty solid basketball since beating Maryland, winning three of four (losing to Virginia Tech, then beating Florida State, Miami, and Virginia).

The odd thing about Clemson is how they win games. They aren't a particularly strong shooting team (45.9 percent), and they average more turnovers than assists (14.6 to 14.9). But they also can play pretty good defense and average nearly 10 steals a game. Basically, Clemson wins ugly games.

The Terps have won their share of ugly games, sure, but on paper are a better team: 47.6 field goal percentage, 38.2 percent from three-point range, 16.4 assists to 12.1 turnovers, 7.9 steals, and 5.0 blocks. Greivis Vasquez is possibly putting together his best season at Maryland, while Eric Hayes is doing the same and shooting threes at a 44.3 percent mark, his four-year best. Williams has improved dramatically since the start of the season, and Dino Gregory has given the Terps some size off the bench.

Playing at home, the Terps have the advantage this time around. But to pull out a win, Maryland needs to take care of the ball and actually make Clemson pay when they turn the ball over. Guard Demontez Stitt is back for the Tigers, which gives them another competent offensive option. Also, there's not much of a chance that Booker shots 2-16 from the field like he did in the first meeting.

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