"We're still trying to go," Tigers freshman forward Cheyenne Moore said. "We want to celebrate with them tonight."
Should the Clemson team show up on the Maryland campus for the party, odds are the No. 9 seeded Tigers will be alone since they beat the No. 8 seeded Terrapins 84-72 in the first round of the ACC Tournament Thursday at the MCI Center.
The victory wrapped up a three-game sweep by Clemson (16-14) over the Terps (16-12) and puts the Tigers into the second round of the tournament, where they will face No. 2 ranked North Carolina (26-3) at noon, Friday.
"I was kind of shocked that they were already writing us off," Tigers freshman guard Cliff Hammonds said. "I mean, we did beat them twice in the regular season."
Even though the Clemson players used the planned pep rally as motivation, Maryland coach Gary Williams scoffed at the idea that it played a factor in the outcome.
"This isn't a high school," he said. "So what? That's the Terrapin Club or something. I didn't even know there was a pep rally tonight. … The senior prom is in May."
Just like in the two previous meetings, Clemson's outside shooting, particularly from junior guard Shawan Robinson, who scored 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range.
As a team, the Tigers shot 47.5 percent from the field and 11-of-25 from beyond the arc. Conversely, Maryland shot 35.4 percent from the field.
"I don't really remember (our defense) letting up (in the second half)," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "In our normal man-to-man defense, we were really good. We denied them from catching it from where they wanted."
The Tigers really shut down Maryland forward Nik Caner-Medley, who cam in averaging 16.7 points per game. He scored 14 points, but most of them cam in garbage time when the game was out of reach.
That was key for Clemson considering that senior Sharrod Ford, who scored 49 combined points in the first two meetings, was held scoreless in the first half and finished with six points.
The low scoring by the top two players for each team even things out, but the difference was Ford's teammates rose to the occasion.
"When we get off the bus, we are looking to get the ball to Sharrod," Purnell said. "They made some adjustments and made it very difficult for Sharrod to catch the ball. The biggest thing was Sharrod kept his poise. He kept playing and did not become frustrated.
"Sooner or later we knew he would be able to do some damage. In the meantime, he was able to find guys like Shawan Robinson. I give Sharrod's teammates a lot of credit for keeping the floor space and to continue to look for him."
By finding the open outside shooter, for the first time in his 116-game career, Ford led the team in assists with five.
But early on it looked as though Maryland might have found the answer to get the win. The Tigers turned it over on their first six possessions to start the game, which allowed the Terps to race to a 16-6 lead with 14:43 remaining until halftime.
Clemson bounced back and went on a run of its own and grabbed their first lead of the game at 17-16 with 10:53 remaining. That was followed by another Maryland run as it took a 26-17 lead with 8:15 to go.
The Tigers then made their charge and with seven seconds to play Robinson nailed a 3-pointer from 24 feet just to the right of the top of the key to give Clemson 39-36 lead at the half.
Clemson came out of the locker room at the half the same way it finished the first 20 minutes and went on another run to pull ahead 55-44 with 12:52 left in the game. From there, the lead got as high as 14 and as low as eight, which means the Tigers were never threatened again.
"We have an opportunity to bring it all together here," Purnell said. "We have had some tough scrapes during the year, but through it all, this group has hung together. We are playing our best basketball of the season right now and have a feeling that we can be anybody."
That theory will be tested Friday when the Tigers face the vaunted Tar Heels.
"North Carolina is an excellent team," Purnell said. "But the formula is the same. If we play good to great Clemson basketball, we have an opportunity."
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