By Jack Rothenberg
Maryland’s early season torrid shooting pace in the friendly confines of the Xfinity Center didn’t travel to Littlejohn Coliseum as the Terps took on the Clemson Tigers as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In the first half, the Terps not only shot a horrid 26% from the field, but decided to start the season of giving early adding 10 turnovers to the gift box. They wrapped up the package by shooting 5/11 from the free throw line. Maryland trailed by 23 at the half and couldn’t pull themselves out of what at one point became a 25 point hole. This was their first contest away from Xfinity Center and fell to the Tigers 67-51. The Terps came away with a stocking full of coal in what may be their only opportunity to experience a game with fans this season.
Head coach Mark Turgeon said postgame that the problems weren’t on the defensive side of the ball. According to Turgeon the defense played well enough for the Terps to win this game, but the real issues were on the offensive side. Players were being selfish with the ball and taking bad shots. “We weren’t moving the ball, we weren’t moving our bodies…it’s not a hard game, you’ve got to change sides with it and we didn’t do that.,” Turgeon said.
Maryland scored the opening bucket of the game, but then went on a four minute scoring drought, allowing Clemson to pull ahead. However, to Turgeon’s point about the defense, with just over 12 minutes left in the first half the Terps were only down six and looking for an answer on offense. Sophomore center Chol Marial was open in the post but brought a pass he caught above his head down to his waist, a cardinal sin for a center. Marial’s inexperience led to a steal and a transition three for the Tigers triggering a 15-3 run.
Sophomore forward Donta Scott (11 points) provided Maryland with a jolt of energy coming out of the break, and gave Terp fans hope for a comeback draining a three point shot that cut Clemson’s lead to 17 with just under 13 minutes to play. Over the next three minutes, Maryland forced two turnovers and blocked two shots to narrow the deficit to 12. At the end of the day Clemson was just too much coming back with a 13-5 run of their own to push the lead back to 20.
For the second straight game junior guard Aaron Wiggins was unable to make an impact. He was back in the starting lineup and played 31 minutes, but had only six points – all coming late in the game and that were more than offset by his four turnovers. However, Turgeon expressed confidence in his junior guard who was the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore. “I’m not concerned at all about Aaron, he did get a couple practices in [since last game, and] he’s got a lot going on. They did a good job of guarding him. Did he play well? No. He’ll be the first to admit it, but am I worried about Aaron Wiggins? No.”
Junior guard Eric Ayala discussed the message to his team as a leader of this squad going into Big Ten play. “It’s more so like a learning lesson. Our first four games we kind of breezed through. This will resemble our competition in the Big Ten, we’re going to have to bring it night in and night out. Honestly I’m kind of glad we got to experience something like this early on so we can learn from it,” Ayala said.
Maryland opens up conference play on Monday, Dec. 14 against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who will test the Terps’ big men and the team’s ability to make shots. The Scarlet Knights defeated Syracuse 79-69 on Dec. 8.
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