I'm going to do these recaps as often as possible during the ACC season, similar to what I was doing last year...
Good ugly game for Clemson. I think there will be a lot of talk about how neither Clemson or Maryland played well. While I agree to a certain extent (Clemson has not played well on offense for more than 10 minutes at a time for three games running...), I would point out that while there was an abundant amount of sloppy play, part of this can be explained by both teams having excellent defenses. Both teams played to there strengths on defense, Clemson forcing turnovers against a normally surehanded Maryland team (it looked like the press really rattled a few of their younger players) while Maryland held us to 31% from the field. I thought one difference on defense was the job Clemson did in limiting Maryland's easy opportunities after breaking the press and also defending the shot well in the halfcourt set. I don't care how bad the other team looked, holding a good shooting team like Maryland to 36%is something to be happy about. To the chart:
formula to calculate safe leads, but I might be wrong.)
Clemson also won because they took advantage of the primary weakness in Maryland's defense I pointed out in the preview: their inability to keep teams off the offensive glass. Clemson racked up enough boards to keep possessions alive and give us second chances, helping to compensate for the low low field goal percentage. Gary Williams' team have never been great on keeping teams off the offensive glass and from watching them its easy to see why: Maryland likes to challenge shots with two or three guys while treating the rebounds as secondary. Its not necessarily a bad strategy, heck, Purnell employs the same strategy, albeit to a possibly lesser degree, for Clemson. But tonight Maryland ran into Jerai Grant. I don't talk about Grant a lot, and even take a few not-so-subtle jabs at him from time to time, but I give him credit for seizing an opportunity to perform last night. Grant's best skill is probably picking up offensive boards (and points resulting from these boards), but he often gets overpowered or outjumped when playing against a team with considerable inside size and/or heft. Last night, though, he was playing a team that struggles to stop his best attribute as a player, and he made them pay. It will be interesting to see if Maryland goes after Grant next time we play to try and put him in some early foul trouble and take him out of the game.
It was a must win situation and despite the generally close score throughout, I was never too worried about the final result. Good, physical performance by the Tigers. Virginia Tech is actually a team with a somewhat similar defensive profile to Maryland, but lacks the good offense. Based on last night's performance, I think we've got a good chance of winning on the road this weekend and getting back on the right side of .500 in ACC play.