After their disappointing loss to Boston College, there was no doubt that the Maryland Terrapins needed to beat Clemson when they hosted the Tigers Saturday afternoon. And, preferably, look good doing it.
The Terps got their win, and, what's more, they got it fairly comfortably over a team that's given a few upper-level ACC teams a run for their money in recent weeks. Nick Faust led the way with a sublime 18-point performance, the Terrapins impressively took care of the ball and controlled the glass, and won the second half by a ten-point margin to seal a heavily-needed 72-59 victory.
It wasn't a perfect performance, or even one that was particularly compelling, but it was solid and, unlike Maryland's showings in some wins, far from worrisome. Clemson is a slow-it-down team that likes to grind out games, and given the early start and lack of atmosphere this game was never going to be a barnburner. But the Terps got the job done, shooting just under 50% from the field, controlling the glass, and finishing with 19 assists to just 8 turnovers. That they won by double-digits despite Alex Len more or less not showing up until the game was already won is a testament to the controlled, efficient team performance we saw today.
The game started the game flat, with an empty Comcast Center not helping energy levels. But after Charles Mitchell provided an energy boost and Mark Turgeon switched to a press to up the tempo, Maryland came alive, bursting out on an 8-0 run midway through the first half and taking control of the game. They led by as many as ten in the first half, and looked a threat to run away with the game if they kept their foot on the gas. Instead, the Terps went on a scoreless stretch of their own as Clemson turned the game back into a scrum, fighting back and getting the deficit to just three by the break.
But the Tigers couldn't maintain that level in the second half, as the Terps jumped out to a 9-1 run early in the second. This time, Clemson wouldn't be able to respond: Maryland continued to press, force turnovers, and take the game to the Tigers inside, stretching the lead as wide as 15 at the under-12. Clemson fought to keep the score respectable, once going on a 6-0 run to ensure that the lead hovered around the ten-point mark, but never truly again threatened the Terps' dominance. A few Alex Len buckets in garbage time helped provide the final margin.
Particularly promising from this performance was Maryland's guard play, especially from Faust. He finished with 18 points on 7-10 shooting and 4-7 from deep, but just as impressively put up three assists and didn't turn the ball over once. It was as good a showing as we've seen from Faust this season, and it hearkened back to how he started to improve toward the end of the season last year, too. He's playing more within himself these days, and even though we should know better than to expect any consistency from anyone on this team, it was a positive sign and a very good performance.
The Terps paired that with good showings on the interior from Shaquille Cleare, James Padgett, and Charles Mitchell, who largely made up for Len's anonymity. Cleare in particular put in work in the second half, and had one of his best games in College Park. When the young guys on this team play well, you can see how all the pieces come together and it's really encouraging. Of course, it's not something that happens regularly, but once they can put together these types of showings with regularity - especially if Turgeon can get Len firing, or if Len's still around when they do - there's a team there.
So Maryland got the win they needed, and they'll have to do it another three or four times down the stretch to have a chance at the tournament. Things won't be easy looking ahead, with road games to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech on the horizon, but this showing has steadied things and hopefully stabilized Maryland's confidence. Back to one-game-a-time.