No time for excuses

CLEMSON - Somewhat limping into Sunday's game against Maryland, Clemson hopes to avoid a fourth-straight ACC loss while managing a few bumps and bruises.

WHAT: Clemson vs. Maryland
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Sunday, January 31 (5:30 PM)
TV: Fox Sports Net

Consider the following: Trevor Booker will play, but he hasn't practiced this week because of a virus while his younger brother, Devin, suffered a broken nose thanks to an elbow when diving after a loose ball in practice.

He'll play with a mask on Sunday, though it's out of comfort, not need.

Then, of course, there is Demontez Stitt. His status is still in the air as he continues to recover from a mid-foot sprain.

With nine games left on the Tigers' schedule, Purnell's calling the matchup with the Terrapins the one of the most important games of the season.

"This is a very important one for us, for a number of reasons," he said. "We've lost a few games in a row. We go on a break right after this one and Maryland comes in here at first-place.

"They're a quality team and it gives you a chance for a quality win at home, which you can never have enough of those."

Maryland is the ACC's best 3-point shooting team, hitting 51 percent from behind the arc in conference play. Clemson tops the conference in defending the outside shot, holding ACC opponents to just 23 percent.

The Terrapins are led by versatile point guard and preseason All-ACC selection Greivis Vasquez. He leads the team in scoring (17.8), assists (6.2) and is fourth in rebounding (4.5).

Guarding the Venezuelan-native will be a team effort by the Tigers.

"I think everybody will find a way on to him, just because of how he scrambles out of the press," Tanner Smith said. "He's been a big key for us this week. We're really going to see what he can do and what he likes to do. Like you have to do with all the great players, you have to guard him as a team."

Maryland also has two other players who rank among the top 20 scorers in the ACC.

Senior forward Landon Milbourne averages 14.8 points and sophomore guard Sean Mosley scores 12.5. Senior guard Eric Hayes is the best 3-point threat in the conference, hitting 46 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

"They're not the first-place team in the ACC because they have one guy. They have a lot of good players," Smith said.

Defensively, Smith said Maryland runs a full-court press after a made free-throw and a three-quarter court press after a dead ball.

"Most of all, they do a good job in the half-court collapsing on drivers," he said. "They do a lot of doubling on the post guys. We're going to have to do a good job finding the open guy out of the post and get open lanes for us to drive."

If Stitt isn't able to play, that means Andre Young will have to attack the basket, much like he did in the second half of the Boston College game.

"I'm going to have to step up and make plays, surprise them," Young said, "just do other stuff. If I can get my shot off, just penetrate and get other guys open shots."

Injuries, illnesses or not, Purnell knows there's no time for excuses.

"You've got to hitch up and keep going. Nobody's going to remember when the year's over, back then, somebody broke their nose two days before and somebody had a virus," Purnell said.

Prediction: Maryland 71 Clemson 67

Clemson (15-6, 3-4)
G #11 Andre Young (5-9,170) - 8 PPG, 2.2 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 10.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 6.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 6.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 16 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Maryland (14-5, 4-1)
G #5 Eric Hayes (6-4, 180) - 10.8 PPG, 3.4 APG
G #21 Greivis Vasquez (6-6, 200) - 17.8 PPG, 6.2 APG
C#20 Jordan Williams (6-10,260) - 7.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG
F #1 Landon Milbourne (6-7,205) - 14.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG
F #14 Sean Mosley (6-4,210) - 12.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG Top Stories