Coming off one of the most deflating losses of the season against Boston College, the Terps could ill-afford another loss if they wanted to have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.
With the pressure mounting, the Terps were off to a terrible start. Maryland fell behind 9-4 in the first four minutes of the game. After a media timeout, Coach Turgeon elected to switch to a press defense.
“Today we were flat and the building was flat. It was 9-4 and I was like, we got to do something,” said Coach Turgeon on the slow start. “They were shooting two free throws and they went one for two and it was 10-4. The press worked. It worked today and got us the lead and got us energy. It's not going to work everyday but it worked today.”
“I feel like our press really sparked us, sparked the crowd and just sparked the whole team,” said Charles Mitchell. “Knowing that we put pressure on them and they turned the ball over, and that got us going. I think it was like a 10-2 run that we got on and that really sparked us and helped us in the long run.”
The Terps did something Saturday that they haven't been able to do all year: hold on to the ball. Maryland committed a season-low eight turnovers. A big reason for that was Sophomore Nick Faust. Faust turned in one of his best games of the season. He scored a season-high 18 points to go along with three assists, three steals and zero turnovers.
“I think he was five assists and no turnovers at Boston College, which means he has eight assists and no turnovers the last two games primarily at the point,” said Turgeon. “Nick has put a lot of time into his jumper. We put the shooting machine, the gun, up a lot and he is on it a lot.”
“I'm trying to get the hang of it still and trying to execute every play the best I can,” said Faust. “I am doing my best to run all of the plays that Coach wants us to run. I am trying to do whatever I can so we do not get a turnover. I also try to motivate my teammates.”
It wasn't the best game of the year for sophomore Alex Len, who scored just two points in the first half. Len's early struggles opened the door for freshmen Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell to see more playing time. Both players responded.
“It helps a lot having big bodies all throughout the game,” said Faust. “It helps us pound on the other teams' big guys. Shaq and Charles help us get inside and outside play.”
“I feel like every time I get a chance to support my team, I try to get in the game and give some energy,” said Mitchell after the game. “Energy is contagious so if one person is doing something, the whole team starts doing something.”
Freshman Jake Layman scored 12 points in a team-high 31 minutes. Cleare scored in double figures for just the third time this season, scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds. Mitchell scored eight points (all in the first half) and pulled in eight boards. Len finished the game strong, scoring nine points (seven in second half) and grabbing eight rebounds (six in second half).
Devin Booker got off to a quick start for Clemson, scoring seven points in the first 4:05. Booker finished the game with a team-high 16 points. Roper Jordan scored 13, while Milton Jennings contributed 10 points and nine rebounds.
With the win, the Terps improve to 19-8 overall and 7-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson falls to 13-13 and 5-9 in the ACC. The Terps will head to Georgia Wednesday to take on Georgia Tech (14-11, 4-9 ACC). Tip is scheduled for 8 p.m.