CLEMSON, S.C. -- A win at Clemson today would give Maryland its best record ever after 20 games. The Tigers are the biggest disappointment of the winter in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and you could almost see the gears working inside the head of Gary Williams, as he tried to cast the Terps as underdogs in what would appear to be a mismatch.
Nobody on his roster has won at Littlejohn Coliseum here. A three-season losing streak there and the chance at a historical win would figure to make the stakes sweet enough for No. 4 Maryland (17-2, 5-1), but then Williams tossed a conspiracy theory in the pot.
"This is not a great time to be playing Clemson," Williams said. "I thought that what they did against Duke, it was obvious that they were pointing to our game rather than at that one. They suspended two players for that one game. They held out a guy who's hurt, who maybe could have played.
"It was obvious Clemson was pointing to this game."
And may be first-year coach Larry Shyatt just finds himself in deep trouble.
Forward Vincent Whitt and Johnny Miller didn't play in a 22-point loss to Duke on Wednesday for apparent violations of university policy. They didn't practice Friday, when Shyatt said, "I guess you could say they are suspended indefinitely."
And yesterday he said they wouldn't play against Maryland, meaning freshmen Dustin Braddick and Will Solomon will start.
Tony Christie will play for the Tigers, after missing his fourth game of the season with chronic back spasms, but Clemson (12-7, 1-5) has had more problems than the health of its sixth man.
Picked to finish fourth in the ACC on the basis of a senior class that has been to the last three NCAA tournaments, the Tigers have instead been cornered by a slide in which they have lost four straight and six of their last seven. While Maryland has turned back challenges from lesser teams, Clemson has crumbled in crunch time.
"In all of our losses, we haven't been able to pinpoint one or two criteria that has caused us to lose," Shyatt said. "I guess you would have to say that our problem has been mental. Between the right and left ear is key for us."
Senior point guard Terrell McIntyre has been burdened by a lack of shooters in his supporting cast. On Maryland's last trip here, Terrell Stokes couldn't locate his help down the stretch either, as the Terps blew a four-point lead in the final minute of regulation, then collapsed in overtime.
"We won at Chapel Hill, so we have confidence there," Stokes of North Carolina, where he and fellow seniors Obinna Ekezie and Laron Profit won three times. "We didn't win at Littlejohn, and 'Can we win there?' that's the question you ask yourself. I think we can have success anywhere, but for some reason, we haven't had any at Littlejohn."
The game opens an 11-day stretch in which the Terps also go to Wake Forest and Duke, other places where they lost last season. Maryland last won at Clemson on Jan. 25, 1995, when the Terps were in the midst of a six-game win streak.
Their current four-game roll is the longest they've enjoyed in the ACC since then.
NOTES: Stokes is up to 502 career assists. He needs 13 to pass John Lucas and become No. 2 all time at Maryland. Keith Gatlin's record of 649 is out of reach, but 600 isn't. The Terps were also 17-2 two years ago, then lost at Florida State. Clemson's only victory since Dec. 26 was at home Jan. 5 against N.C. State, which is 0-5 on the road. Duke kept Harold Jamison away from the basket, and Maryland wants to do the same. The 6-foot-8 senior forward doesn't have a jump shot, but is the top offensive rebounder in the conference. Is this what it's all about? The inside back cover of its media guide shows that last season its five products gave Clemson the highest average NBA salary of any college.
Site: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C.
Time: 4 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Line: Maryland by 9
Pub Date: 1/24/99