4:00 PM ET, January 25, 2003
Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, South Carolina
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Maryland's Drew Nicholas wasn't too concerned with how bad the (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) Terps looked Saturday, only that they left Littlejohn Coliseum with a victory. "I'm sure it was a tough game to watch. This wasn't a very pretty basketball game,'' said Nicholas, who scored 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting in Maryland's 52-47 victory over Clemson . But "it was good enough to win. At the end of the day, there's going to be another win in the ACC column for us.''The Terps (12-4, 5-1) came in leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in 3-point shooting and were second overall in field-goal percentage. However, they struggled throughout in this one and shot just 19-of-56 (.339) -- their worst performance of the season. Still, they won for the sixth time in seven games and held on to first place in the conference. "We played well and we found a way to win,'' Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "People may say that this wasn't a pretty game, but believe me, there were two good teams out there today.'' However, only one of them was the defending national champion who could call on five senior starters to shrug off problems and get the job done. "We been through things like this before,'' said Taj Holden, who had 11 rebounds but was only 2-of-7 from the field. "We knew we had to keep chipping away and eventually, we would play our brand of basketball.'' It almost took the Terps too long. Their sloppy performance kept Clemson (11-4, 1-4) around until the final minute. Edward Scott, who led the Tigers with 16 points, made four foul shots to get Clemson within three at 50-47 with 1:08 remaining. However, Scott missed a wide-open 3-pointer that would have tied it and Steve Blake hit two foul shots to seal the win. "It's tough, it's very tough to win on the road,'' Blake said. "We're happy to get this win and get out of here, no matter how it looks.'' Clemson opened a surprising 9-0, but have lost four of six this month. "Look at the perspective,'' Tigers coach Larry Shyatt said. "Against a top 10 team in any sport, you've got to play near your best to win. We did not.'' None of the Terps, including Nicholas, were shooting well. Ryan Randle was just 1-of-5 for three points -- 11 below his average. Blake was 2-of-8 on 3s. The Terrapins missed their first eight attempts and first six from 3-point range. Nicholas was 0-for-4 as Maryland fell behind 21-9 with 5:18 left in the first half. "We could have been down by 16, 17 points or more,'' Nicholas said. "So we always felt like we were still in it and would come back.'' Then the Terps turned up their defense and Nicholas finally found his stroke to close with a 15-2 run. Nicholas had two 3-pointers and an inside basket -- all following Clemson turnovers -- during the rally as the Terps went up 24-23. Calvin McCall and Blake had back-to-back 3s to extend the lead to 33-27. When Nicholas made two foul shots and a short jumper, Maryland led 46-37 with 5:30 remaining. "You could see when we made the run, it kind of took the emotion out of them,'' said Nicholas, who also had five rebounds and three assists. Despite Maryland's shooting problems, Clemson was even worse. The Tigers shot .318 overall. The Tigers made only four field goals in the second half. Scott was just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. Olu Babalola, who was 5-of-8, was Clemson's only player who shot better than 50 percent. He had 12 points and seven rebounds. Shyatt had a long talk with his players afterward to keep them from getting down on themselves -- particularly with a game against (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) Wake Forest on Tuesday night. "The picture is very simple,'' said Shyatt, the fifth-year coach whose team has finished dead last in the ACC the past three seasons. "To our biggest critics, or our biggest fans, we are very good. We have been very good all year.''