Rushed Reactions: Maryland 72, Clemson 59Posted by IRenko on February 23rd, 2013
I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Maryland and Clemson. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three key takeaways:
- Maryland’s Tournament Hopes Are Alive — Last weekend’s win over Duke gave the Terps’ Tournament hopes a big boost, but a letdown loss at Boston College on Tuesday left them on the thinnest of ice. A loss to Clemson at home would have been a big blow, and it seemed a real possibility when the Tigers pulled to within a point just after halftime. But a 21-6 run gave the Terps a comfortable 16-point cushion with 11:20 to play, and from there, they eased to a comfortable 13-point win, keeping their Tournament hopes alive. While acknowledging his team’s somewhat slow start, head coach Mark Turgeon was quite happy with the Terps’ second-half performance, crediting their defense even more than their offense for enabling them to take control.
- Maryland’s Freshman Frontcourt May Be Its Future — Sophomore Alex Len has been the focus of the media’s attention for most of the year, but Maryland’s freshmen frontcourt shows signs of being a real force for years to come. Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, and Shaquille Cleare were averaging just 5.2, 5.5, and 4.2 points coming into today’s game, but they scored 12, 8, and 10 respectively today. More than that, they showed a certain kind of maturity and poise that belied their status as freshmen. The 6′ 8″ Layman is a swing forward with the athleticism, quickness, and shooting touch to play on the perimeter. He has been a full-time starter since late January, and the confidence and skill he displayed against Clemson show why. Mitchell and Cleare are a pair of big bodies who are still refining their post moves, but are strong finishers and rebounders who use their bulk to great effect. They added 6 and 7 boards apiece today and were a big reason Maryland was able to dominate the paint against a typically stout Clemson defense. Their physicality will suit the Terps well when they make the transition to the Big Ten.
- Clemson’s Offense Is In A Deep Funk – The Tigers have a strong defense, as they showed in taking Miami the distance last week in a 45-43 loss. But their offense has struggled and especially badly of late. This was the fifth straight game in which they scored less than a point per possession. For a team that is likely looking forward to next season already, the news gets worse — two of their three leading scorers, Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, graduate this year. That leaves a heavy load for K.J. McDaniels, who managed seven points against Maryland, and Jordan Roper, who scored a very inefficient 13 points on 5-of-15 FG shooting.
Star of the Game: Sophomore guard Nick Faust, who poured in 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. Faust also added three assists and three steals without committing a turnover. His jumper was pretty and potent all afternoon, a fact that Turgeon attributed to Faust’s sound shot selection.
Sights and Sounds: Former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell caused a bit of a stir last year when he objected to naming the Maryland home floor after his successor, Gary Williams. Driesell, who won 348 games in 17 seasons at Maryland and had some truly outstanding teams in the mid-70s and mid-80s, has not always been fully embraced by Maryland, due to the perception that his lack of control over the program contributed to Len Bias’ tragic death, a perception that forced him to resign his position. But the old coach and his old school had a nice moment of reconciliation on Saturday, as Driesell was honored with a halftime tribute and a standing ovation from a fanbase that seemed to appreciate Driesell’s contributions to Maryland’s on-court tradition.
Quotable: “[Len is] a little fatigued, a little dead-legged right now. . . . The one day we went after it pretty hard in practice, I separated Shaq and Alex. I think Shaq beating on you wears you down, so I need to stay away from that in practice too a little bit, so I can have Alex fresh as we move forward.” — Turgeon, explaining Alex Len’s recent subpar performances and the unusual role that his bruising frontcourt mate has played in it.
Wildcard: Maryland’s press, which Turgeon blamed for his team’s loss at Boston College, had the opposite effect today. After the Terps fell behind 10-4, the press energized them and fueled a 24-10 run, after which Maryland would never trail again.
What’s next: Maryland heads to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest with little to gain, but much to lose, for purposes of their Tournament resume. Clemson hosts North Carolina on Thursday and will try to find something to spark their stagnant offense.