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.