Maryland got the road test it anticipated, giving up a whopping 56 points in the first half. The Terps then used their depth, their zone defense and a great performance from senior forward Terence Morris down the stretch to turn back the Tigers, 104-92, before 7,500.
The victory, Maryland's ninth straight, marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Terps (10-3) have scored at least 100 points - a first in school history. Maryland's 104 points also matched a school record for most points scored in an ACC road game. It also was the most points ever scored against Clemson by the Terps in 119 meetings.
It was a dizzying display of offense at both ends, as Clemson played run-and-gun and nearly gunned down Maryland by making 13 of 29 three-point shots. Junior guard Will Solomon led the way with a game-high 32 points, including 7-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Maryland responded with a more well-rounded fireworks display, beginning with Morris, whose gradual recovery from an early-season slump accelerated last night. Morris led the Terps with a season-high 26 points and a team-high eight rebounds, and he scored six of the team's final 10 points to put away Clemson, which had pulled to within 83-82 with 9:24 left.
Morris did much of his damage while center Lonny Baxter (24 points) and ineffective point guard Steve Blake sat in foul trouble.
"That's the best [Morris] has played in the second half in a year. He was great," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "He asserted himself. He knew we were in foul trouble with Lonny and Steve. That's the best body language I've seen from him in a long time."
Junior guard Juan Dixon continued his torrid ways by adding 22 points and a game-high four steals. Byron Mouton scored 17. And the Terps punctuated a brilliant offensive night by converting 30 of 36 free throws to top off their 53.2 percent shooting from the floor.
"I practiced really well this week, and it just carried over into the game," said Morris, who sank four free throws - on a 7-for-7 night at the line - to put away Clemson (9-5) in the final two minutes.
Maryland also can thank its 3-2 zone and some tired Clemson legs for finally shaking off the tenacious Tigers, who faded after taking several second-half leads.
Williams was left to admire the Tigers while questioning his defense. After the Tigers had nine different players combine for 56 points in the first half, during which Solomon had 19, Williams ordered the Terps into a 3-2 zone five minutes into the second half.
Gradually, the Tigers' frenetic style and the Terps' defenders caught up with them.
"I was very stubborn in the first half. I wasn't going to play zone. Maybe it cost us. I'm still mad at the team for not playing good man-to-man," Williams said. "To Clemson's credit they came out early and really shot it well and executed their offense. To score 59 points at the half and only be up by three is really something we need to address."
Morris certainly addressed any doubts about his game. After Baxter had set the tone by scoring 15 of the team's first 21 points, and Dixon followed suit by nearly matching Solomon in a wild first half, Morris took over with 18 points in the second half.
Clemson took leads of 67-65 and 73-71, but Morris would not let the Tigers extend the leads. He converted a three-point play to give the Terps a 71-69 lead with 15 minutes left, then hit his third three-point shot of the night to give Maryland a 77-73 lead and followed with a pair of free throws to make it 79-73 with 12:54 left.
Morris then picked up his third foul, sat briefly, then resumed his dismantling of Clemson by driving the baseline for a layup to make it 83-76 with 11:18 left. The Tigers made a final 6-0 run, as Solomon hit his final three to cut Maryland's lead to 83-82 with 9:24 to go.
Dixon and Mouton combined for seven Terps points after that. And backup point guard Drew Nicholas (four points, six assists), who filled in brilliantly for Blake with 26 solid minutes, pushed the Terps in front 92-83 with two foul shots. Morris then helped Maryland pull away with a slam and four free throws in the last two minutes.
"Terence played his heart out tonight. He was our MVP," said Baxter, who controlled the proceedings early in the shadows of a courtside sign that read, 'Lonny Baxter is fat.' Baxter scored 18 points in the first half, made all eight of his free throws and made eight of 10 shots overall.
"We scored 100 points in the last three games. We didn't think we would do that here, but we had to, because we didn't play defense," Dixon said.
Added Baxter: "This is the ACC. The whole season is a test. We stayed strong, that's all that matters. This was our first test, and we passed it."