WASHINGTON, D.C. - Earlier this season Clemson confounded the basketball experts by defeating the University of Maryland, 88-73, at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Nearly a month later the Tigers did it again, this time on Maryland's home floor - The Comcast Center in College Park, 97-93.
Today, Clemson goes for a rare trifecta:
Three wins against the same team on three different floors.
To pull it off the Tigers (15-14) will have to do it in the opening round of the ACC Tournament, played in Washington's MCI Center. Clemson, the No. 9 seed, faces No. 8 seed Maryland (16-11). Clemson is 1-9 all time vs. Maryland in the ACC Tournament, including a 1997 loss after sweeping the Terps in the regular season.
This edition of the Tigers believes a third straight victory is possible because of the favorable matchups which played to their advantage in the first two games. But Maryland needs the victory to keep its fleeting NCAA Tournament hopes alive, meaning the Terrapins should be highly motivated.
"It's a good match up for us but at the same time we know this is a highly motivated team," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "I'm not sure you can search around the ACC and find one that is not, but obviously Maryland needs this game very badly and we were able to beat them a couple of times, and right there in their back yard.
"It's a good matchup in one way and a bad matchup in another."
It's a good matchup for the Tigers because they have Sharrod Ford on their side.
Ford has had two of the best games of his career in the two previous outings against Maryland. His two-game totals vs. the Terps - 49 points (19-of-28 field goals), 24 rebounds and 11 blocks - were the primary reason Clemson won both contests.
In each game Maryland decided not to double-team Ford, and paid dearly. Not because of Ford's numbers, but because his presence and Maryland's up-tempo style allowed Clemson's guards to get into the flow of the game.
Shawan Robinson came off the bench in both meetings and averaged 19.5 points, giving the Tigers a nice perimeter Ying to Ford's inside Yang.
"We obviously have a match up with Sharrod Ford that they struggle to match up with him so that's really it," said Purnell. "I'm not sure we win any other match ups. But they have to make a decision what to do with Sharrod."
The two X-factors in tournament basketball are intensity and injuries, and both elements could favor the Tigers.
Maryland's James Gist (freshman, 6.3 points, 3.9 rebounds) suffered a knee injury in practice earlier this week, and there is some question as to whether he will be able to start today's game.
Meanwhile, Clemson's energy level has gone up with the insertion of freshmen Sam Perry and James Mays into the starting lineup which, ironically, came in the first meeting with Maryland. That some of the team's best performances of the year followed isn't a coincidence.
Now, with their postseason future (NIT) all but secure, Clemson goes into today's tournament with very little pressure.
Purnell hopes that translates into another energetic performance.
"The intensity level generally goes up in tournament basketball," he said. "There is an excitement. There is a newness about it. Obviously there is generally a lot on the line in tournament.
"I think that in those (previous) two games, other than making shots, the activity of those two (Perry and Mays)...was the next biggest key."
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.