Loss dims Terps' hopes for tourney Clemson's 1st ACC win ends modest Md. streak

CLEMSON, S.C. — CLEMSON, S.C. -- It's a little early to call any defeat fatal to a team's chances of an NCAA tournament bid, but Maryland's 82-72 loss here Tuesday night was a difficult one for the Terrapins.

Clemson (10-5, 1-5) not only won its first Atlantic Coast Conference game this season and ended a 10-game ACC losing streak dating back to last season, but also broke a two-game winning streak by Maryland (10-6, 1-5).


"It broke our momentum," said senior forward Evers Burns, who finished with 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. "But we've got to go back and get ready for Duke. We have to play harder, that's the bottom line. We didn't play hard enough to win."

After leading by nine midway through the first half, after falling behind before scoring the last six points of the half to lead by two, Maryland became tentative early in the second half.


Just as the Terps followed senior guard Kevin McLinton's aggressiveness in recent victories over Oklahoma and North Carolina State, they picked up on McLinton's passiveness because of foul trouble against the Tigers.

"When I got those three fouls in the first half, I got tentative," said McLinton. "I'm not a very good basketball player if I don't play aggressively."

And when he picked up his fourth foul with 11:21 remaining in the game and Maryland still behind by only five, he found himself on the bench.

By the time he returned less than four minutes later, the Terps were down 11 and headed toward a 15-point deficit. Much of the damage was done by Clemson forward Devin Gray, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound sophomore who played high school ball at St. Frances in East Baltimore. Gray scored a career-high 27 points, 16 in the second half.

"Devin Gray had a great game," said Maryland coach Gary Williams.

It came after Gray had started the night on the bench and in Clemson coach Cliff Ellis' doghouse. Gray, the team's leading scorer, had been benched for the second half of Sunday's 18-point loss at Wake Forest after complaining about not getting the ball enough.

Gray and Tigers center Sharone Wright, who had only the second triple-double (12 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocks) by an ACC player in league competition, dominated Maryland inside. Guards Chris Whitney and Jeff Brown, each of whom scored 19, softened the Terps up from the outside. Whitney was six of 10 on three-pointers.

"Their strength bothered us," said Williams. "Clemson's front line is as big as anybody's in the ACC except for North Carolina. They took advantage."


Said Ellis: "We needed a win, just like Maryland needed to win against N.C. State. Nobody likes zeros."

And nobody likes sitting on the bench.

Ask Gray.

"I wanted to put everything behind me," said Gray, who smoothed things out with Ellis and his teammates at a meeting Monday. "This game was important for me because it was being televised back home. This was for bragging rights when I got home."

NOTES: Maryland plays Duke Saturday at Cole Field House. The Blue Devils are 3-3 in the league, including a one-point overtime loss at Florida State on Sunday. The Terps haven't beaten Duke since the 1987-88 season, a stretch of 11 games that includes two losses in the ACC tournament.