COLLEGE PARK - Although they needed a kick-start in the middle of the proceedings, the Maryland Terrapins made sure not to ruin Senior Night. Instead, the Terps knocked out another visitor and finished their first year in Comcast Center with yet another rout.
In what amounted to a three-act play last night, the 14th-ranked Terps jumped on Clemson early, took the Tigers' best shot in the final seven minutes of the first half, then left Clemson in the dust with a second-half display of shooting and defense that left Maryland coach Gary Williams shaking his head in amazement.
And after Maryland had crushed Clemson, 91-52, to move into second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, a half game ahead of Duke and percentage points behind Wake Forest, it was hard to remember the Terps actually were pushed.
Before steamrolling the Tigers with a 27-4 run to open the second half, before senior point guard Steve Blake made three consecutive three-point baskets to start the half, before Maryland had made six of its first seven shots from beyond the arc after the break to stun the Tigers, there was that stumble at the end of the opening period.
Clemson, badly outplayed for the game's first 13 minutes, closed with an 18-6 run to cut the Terps' halftime advantage to 36-31. With 2:28 left and Maryland squandering what had been a 30-13 bulge, Williams called a timeout, met his players some 15 feet from the bench and lit into them.
Then, after the Tigers had scored the final basket of the half, Williams stood in front of the bench, fuming as his team headed for the locker room. Seconds later as he left the court, Williams greeted a smattering of boos from the student section with some choice words.
"Somebody booed. I wanted the players to see me [yell back at the offender]. I would have thrown something if I'd seen him," Williams said. "How can you boo this team? I don't want to hear it. Those people don't know how hard it is to make the NCAA tournament. We've done it for 10 straight years."
Williams was equally livid at his squad, and the Terps, whose five seniors were honored in a pre-game ceremony before winning the class' 100th game, responded in kind by dispatching Clemson (15-9, 5-8) with a fury and ending the Tigers' three-game winning streak.
Maryland (18-7, 10-4), which won its fourth game in five tries after playing its fourth game in nine days, rode its seniors and the emotion of the evening, starting with Blake, whose jersey was honored before tip-off. Blake finished with 14 points and seven assists and made four of five three-point attempts. He had made eight straight before missing in the middle of the second half.
By that point, the game was over. Maryland, which shot a season-high 63 percent and outscored Clemson in the second half by a 55-21 margin, had turned a five-point halftime lead into a 63-35 rout with 12:17 left in the game.
"It feels great, to know every time I come back here, I'm going to see my name in those rafters, and everyone will know how much I contributed to the university," said Blake, who started his school-record 130th game. "My shot feels really good right now. I'm doing a good job of getting shots, I'm moving well without the ball, and I'm taking good shots when they come.
"We were upset with each other [at halftime]. We can't let a lead like that get away. We can't let a team back in the game like that."
The Terps, who have won at least 10 ACC games in six consecutive seasons, made sure that wouldn't happen after the break. Besides shooting a torrid 67.7 percent in the second half, Maryland smothered the Tigers, starting with senior point guard Edward Scott. He had averaged 26.8 points in his previous four games, before the Terps, led by Blake, held Scott to 11 points. He managed only one field goal in the second half.
Senior center Ryan Randle led Maryland with 18 points, grabbed six rebounds and made all eight of his free throws. Senior guard Drew Nicholas added 13 points and five assists. Backup forward Jamar Smith (13 points in 15 minutes) led another strong effort by the Terps' bench, which scored 32 points.
"Blake was feeling it, Drew was feeling it, and we fed off of [Williams'] emotion," Randle said. "This team is good."
The Terps, who play at North Carolina State on Sunday before concluding their regular season a week later at Virginia, certainly finished up at Comcast with a flourish. In their past three home victories over Wake Forest, North Carolina and Clemson, Maryland won by a combined 106 points.
"We hit a tidal wave in the second half and a barrage of threes," Clemson coach Larry Shyatt said. "Clearly, that divided the game and separated us light years away."
"That was an explosion. You can't explain how that happens," said Williams, who will go for his 500th career victory on Sunday. "The only negative tonight was we got a big lead and we thought the game was over. There was no question we were going to come out playing hard in the second half."
Next for Terps
Matchup:No. 14 Maryland (18-7) at N.C. State (15-9)
Site:RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
When:Sunday, 8 p.m.
TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)