COLLEGE PARK - Maryland's basketball team may be going from one low-scoring defensive struggle to another as the Terrapins visit Atlantic Coast Conference rival Clemson on Sunday.
The last time out, Maryland couldn't quite do enough offensively against a tired and short-handed Syracuse squad, losing a 57-55 decision to the fourth-ranked Orange.
Expect the final tally against Clemson to be something similar to that, given the way the Tigers have played this season. Coach Brad Brownell's team is no offensive juggernaut; the Tigers' 62.3 scoring average ranks 332nd in Division I basketball.
But the way the Tigers have been able to keep their opponents' scores down with dogged man-to-man defense, the Tigers don't need a lot of points to win. Entering Sunday's game against the Terrapins, Clemson ranks second in the country (behind only Virginia) in scoring defense, allowing a scant 56.2 points per game.
Clemson opponents have managed to score 60 points just twice in the last 13 games. That stretch includes a 72-59 Tiger victory over Duke on Jan. 11, the Blue Devils' lowest point total and most lopsided loss of the season.
"I do believe you have to have an identity as a program," Brownell said earlier this season. "A program needs to stand for something ... I think we've used the defensive side of the ball to establish an identity for our team and our program and I think it's helped us."
Brownell prefers to use positioning rather than pressure to limit opponents. The Tigers don't get a lot of steals, but they try to limit opponents' open looks outside and contest every shot inside.
"They play great defense," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon acknowledged on his radio show Thursday night.
Brownell's efforts in this area have paid off handsomely this season. The Tigers, 13-18 last season, are 17-10 overall, 8-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and have an outside shot at an NCAA Tournament bid if they play well down the stretch.
Maryland, meanwhile, is trying to create some momentum for a late-season run. At 15-13 overall, 7-8 in the ACC, the Terrapins probably need to reach the ACC Tournament final to be considered for an NCAA at-large bid.
Against Syracuse's formidable 2-3 zone defense on Monday night, Maryland struggled mightily. The Terrapins shot just 35 percent from the floor and committed 18 turnovers, matching their season high. Even worse, the Orange converted those turnovers into 26 points, nearly half the team's total.
"We made bad passes," Maryland swingman Dez Wells said. "We've got to do better."
If not for the hot shooting of point guard Seth Allen (game-high 22 points) the game wouldn't have been that close. Allen had his problems as well, particularly when it came to handling the ball. For the first time this season, he failed to record a single assist and he led the Terrapins with five turnovers.
"I'd say we've just got to be a little more consistent and take care of the ball better," Allen said.
NOTE: Maryland's inaugural Big Ten basketball season in 2014-15 will feature home games against Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers, the conference announced on Friday.