Shell Shocked! Tigers Knock Terps out of ACC Tournament

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WASHINGTON - Clemson completed a rare trifecta Thursday afternoon on the largest stage in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Tigers opened the ACC Tournament riding a 24-point outburst from Shawan Robinson, knocking off Maryland for the third straight time this season, 84-72. All three Clemson wins over the Terrapins came on three different floors - this one at Washington's MCI Center.

"Obviously we are thrilled with the win in the first round of the ACC Tournament," said Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell. "It doesn't get much better than this, with the center of college basketball right here in Washington, D.C. We are thrilled to be a part of it. We have an opportunity to bring it all together here. We are playing are best basketball of the season right now and have a feeling that we can beat any body."

Clemson, which hadn't won a game in the tournament since 2001, next faces second-ranked North Carolina on Friday. It marked the first time in school history that Clemson (16-14) beat Maryland (16-12), the defending tournament champs, three times in the same season.

"They played harder than us in all three games," said Maryland head coach Gary Williams. "They made some shots and we missed some shots. We can't have lulls during our games and they played pretty consistently.

Clemson led 55-50 before reserve Olu Babalola made a three-point play and a 3-pointer to expand the margin to 11, and the Terrapins never got closer than nine points.

Robinson was marvelous from long range, going 6-for-8 beyond the arc. Many of his shots were one or two steps behind the three point line. His hot shooting from the outside more than made up for a quiet performance by center Sharrod Ford.

“We always talk about spacing the floor and screening,” said Purnell. “If they decide to double team and triple team Sharrod (Ford) and we are spaced then someone is going to get a wide open look from three and obviously Shawn Robinson was the recipient of a lot of those today.

Ford had 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks in the last game between the teams, a 97-93 Clemson victory at Maryland on Feb. 22. This time, Ford finished with six points and eight rebounds after a scoreless first half in which he grabbed only two rebounds.

But Ford also had five assists to lead Clemson, the only time he's done that in 116 career games.

At the break, Clemson led 39-36. Eight players scored for the Tigers, who were paced by Shawan Robinson's 14. McCray, who was 4-for-7 from the floor and 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, led Maryland with 15 points at halftime.

The Tigers went on a 19-5 run to start the second half, claiming a 55-44 advantage with 12:53 remaining. But the Terps would fight back with a 6-0 run of their own to close the margin to five.

“This team has really grown,” said Purnell. “I think it really shows that growth when you get down 8-0 with some unforced errors and nervous type play and then bounce back from it.”

Chris McCray led the Terrapins with 24 points and Nik Caner-Medley had 14 on 5-for-17 shooting. John Gilchrist, a star in the ACC tournament last year, missed six of seven shots and scored just four points.

He played only two minutes in the second half because of a sore ankle.

Clemson will play top seeded UNC at noon on Friday (RJ / ESPN2). The Tigers lost both games to the Tar Heels this season.

“It won’t be real hard to review Carolina,” said Purnell. “Bottom line is we will talk about us. We talk about us playing our game, playing well and believing in ourselves and those kind of things and with that we can beat anyone.”

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