Fighting for ACC Tournament position, Clemson returns to Littlejohn Coliseum to face Maryland (15-13, 7-8 ACC) Sunday at 1 p.m. for the first of three consecutive home games to finish the regular season.
The Tigers’ topsy-turvy road slate concluded with a gut-wrenching 62-57 loss at Wake Forest on Tuesday. They had an opportunity to tie a school record for five conference away wins, but within two points late, a pair of missed free throws-turned-Deacs runout was a five-point swing they couldn’t overcome.
For a young and overachieving Clemson (17-10, 8-7) team, Brad Brownell says they learned a lesson the hard way.
“We’re all so close together,” Brownell said. “If you’re not playing well, you let a team get a mini-run on you somewhere – you’re going to be in trouble. That’s what happened (Tuesday).”
“I tell our guys this, the crazy thing in basketball is one or two possessions often times makes a huge swing in any game. It might end up being a 10 or 12 point swing based on the plays that follow. It just felt like (Tuesday) we didn’t get those one or two momentum plays in the second half.”
Maryland is no stranger to heartbreak, suffering three losses by four points or less to the ACC’s top-five in the standings.
With a raucous crowd behind them, they hosted No. 4 Syracuse Monday. Trailing by as much as 12 with under six minutes left, the Terrapins stormed back to within a point with 47 seconds to go. Down by two in the final seconds, junior guard Nick Faust drove to the hoop and his shot was blocked – taking some contact along the way. Later, a 3-point heave would go off the rim resulting in the 57-55 defeat.
With time running out, they, like Clemson, are trying to right the ship before postseason play.
“We have bad plays, we have good plays,” junior guard Dez Wells said, who averages a team-best 14.8 points a game. “It’s all part of the game. They’re a good team, we’re a good team. We could have won this game just like we could have won against Duke and Virginia and all the good teams we have been playing really close.
“Something has to happen and that’s something me and Coach (Mark) Turgeon are going to talk about and I’m just going to put it on my shoulders to figure out what we need to do and what needs to happen for us to take that jump.”
Entering the weekend, the Terps and Tigers were in a group of five ACC teams within two games of each other in the middle of the pack.
After a 4-5 mark on the road this season, Clemson is back in the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum, where they are 4-2 in ACC play – winning by 10.2 points a game. Maryland is 1-6 on the road in conference action, losing by 12.5 points per game.
Junior Clemson guard Damarcus Harrison has provided a much-needed complement to K.J. McDaniels’ All-ACC campaign of late, scoring 14.3 points per game in the Tigers’ last three games.
“He’s playing better, which is really good,” Brownell said. “We need another consistent performer on the floor. He made some really good baskets in the first half driving the ball and making some plays off the bounce. He made a couple of big threes in the second half (Tuesday) that gave us a little hope and chance.
“It was good to see him follow up with another 15-point game and if he can continue to play like that and K.J.’s playing well and (Landry) Nnoko is on the court and Rod (Hall) is doing his thing, we will be better.”
Sunday's matchup is the final ACC trip for Maryland to Clemson, leaving for the Big Ten Conference next season. The Tigers haven’t beat Maryland since the 2009-10 season, a 62-53 win at home.