CLEMSON, S.C. -- When Clemson's Andrius Jurkunas made a three-pointer that forced Maryland into overtime at Littlejohn Coliseum yesterday, the Terps needed group therapy.
Point guard Terrell Stokes said his mind slipped back to last season, when Maryland coughed up a late four-point lead and collapsed in overtime. These Tigers have been a massive disappointment this year, Gary Williams was 1-8 as a coach here and the potential embarrassment for the nation's No. 4 team was palpable.
"That's so deflating," Williams said. "I never saw faces lower than that. Thank God you get two minutes for a TV timeout [before overtime]. We've got to come back in that situation, and that's where seniors come in handy. When somebody throws something like that in your face, you have to be able to react."
Actually, coach, that was where Terence Morris came in handy.
The sophomore forward from Frederick scored the last four points to lift Maryland to an 81-79 victory that gave it its best 20-game record ever. The winning points came with 14 seconds left on a 15-foot jumper from the right baseline by the Terps' new go-to guy, who had a game-high 26 points.
Maryland (18-2, 6-1 ACC) trailed by four heading into the last five minutes of regulation, wasted several leads and had to come back in the extra five minutes, as its phobia for Littlejohn wasn't as bad as the fear and loathing Clemson confronts in close finishes.
The Tigers (12-8, 1-6) lost their fifth straight in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It was the fifth straight win for Maryland, but the first time in their careers that seniors Stokes, Laron Profit and Obinna Ekezie were not foiled by Terrell McIntyre here.
Instead of McIntyre making the big plays down the stretch, Morris did, with a boost from the seniors.
Morris put back a missed three by Stokes with 2: 02 left, for a tie at 79. On the decisive basket, Stokes called "two-side," and Morris lost his defender in a double screen set by Ekezie and Profit. He gathered a pass from Stokes, and coolly hit what he said was the first game-winning shot of his life.
Come on, Terence, you never won a game for Thomas Johnson High at the buzzer?
"Nope," said the quiet man whose play speaks volumes.
Morris matched his career scoring high and had a team-high five rebounds, and he will get strong consideration when the ACC determines its Player of the Week today, seeing as how he was the difference in Tuesday's sloppy win over Georgia Tech, too.
Just as the Terps did against the Yellow Jackets and Virginia, they played down to the level of the opposition.
Depleted by the indefinite suspension of two key veterans, Clemson suited up 10 players. It has been a nightmare of a season for first-year coach Larry Shyatt, whose makeshift team was nonetheless primed for Maryland.
A lack of shooters led to a series of narrow losses, the worst a humbling one at Virginia. So what did Clemson do yesterday? It made 56.9 percent of its field-goal attempts, the best by a Maryland opponent this season, and on defense it refused to give the Terps an easy look at the basket.
Jurkunas, who entered with a 5.6 scoring average, hit five three-pointers, the biggest being the clutch bomb with 14 seconds left in regulation that forced overtime.
McIntyre's three from the top of the key gave Clemson a 63-59 lead with 5: 49 left and padded his point total to 22. He scored once over the last 10 minutes, as Williams gave in to the inevitable and went box-and-one to stop a 5-foot-9 guard with 1,545 career points.
The Terps played straight man-to-man in the last two minutes, and McIntyre came up short on the Tigers' last three possessions. He missed a three with 1: 35 left; was stripped by Stokes with 34 seconds left; and had his scoop shot blocked by Ekezie in the closing seconds. Shyatt and McIntyre screamed foul, but none came.
"On the last play, I wanted to split the defenders and I thought I did a pretty good job," McIntyre said, "but they [the officials] just didn't call anything. They [the Terps] were pulling and grabbing all over the place. The calls didn't go our way."
McIntyre got his fourth foul with 10: 43 left and the score tied, but Maryland was actually outscored during his five-minute absence. The Terps used a 7-0 run to go up 66-63, but they were unable to get a basket in the last four minutes of regulation.
Maryland's last four possessions of regulation produced one point. Steve Francis missed a rushed jumper, Stokes committed a turnover, and Profit hit one of two free throws with 22.6 seconds left to make it 71-68. Jurkunas pounced on that opening, and then got out on Profit's desperation three that would have won it.
McIntyre's three with 2: 25 left in overtime put Clemson on top at 79-77, but the Tigers didn't score again. Francis got four of his 18 points in overtime, and on a day when Clemson rarely allowed Maryland to develop any offensive rhythm, Morris was a nice option at the end.
Morris had 12 of Maryland's first 19 points. He had 18 -- half of them on three-pointers -- in the first 21 minutes, then was relatively quiet until overtime. What did Clemson do to slow a player who made nine of 12 shots and all five of his free throws?
"There was absolutely no design to keep the ball out of his hands," Shyatt said. "If I'm not mistaken, three or four times at the end they [the Terps] tried to post up Steve Francis on Will Solomon. Maryland just ran the two-side at the end. They ran it well."
Maryland might want to run it a little more often.
NOTES: Williams denied an ESPN report that Francis has definitely told him he will not return to Maryland next season. The junior guard is nonetheless expected to spend only one season with the Terps. Francis was 5-for-12 from the field, but 6-for-6 at the free-throw line. Stokes had a season-high 11 points, with three three-pointers. The Terps made 10 threes, matching their season high.
Maryland's victory yesterday was only the Terps' second in the past 11 years at Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum:
1988-89 L, 75-58
1989-90 L, 82-77
1990-91 L, 73-69
1991-92 L, 82-70
1992-93 L, 82-72
1993-94 L, 73-67
1994-95 W, 56-51
1995-96 L, 68-61
1996-97 L, 80-68
1997-98 L, 78-65, OT
1998-99 W, 81-79, OT
Pub Date: 1/25/99