Clemson University

Tigers rally from 20 down in second half to stun Maryland

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Unveiling purple uniforms was supposed to give Clemson a sense of its special opportunity at hand.

They turned out to be emblems foretelling their heart.

The Tigers accomplished the unthinkable Sunday night, erasing a 20-point deficit in the final 11 minutes to stun Maryland with a 73-70 triumph that might as well stamp their NCAA tournament ticket.

Freshman guard Terrence Oglesby swished a flailing, game-winning 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left to cap Clemson's largest second-half comeback ever and match its largest rally in program history.

"This is the night this team goes from good to great," senior forward James Mays said.

Quite frankly, Clemson (21-7, 9-5 ACC) went from awful to superlative in that short span, too.

Mays poured in 16 of his season-high 20 points in the second half to ignite the furious rally that left a senior night capacity crowd of 17,950 silently stunned and its homestanding Terps (18-12, 8-7) now scrambling to recover.

The Tigers' previous largest second-half rally was 19 against LaSalle in the 1990 NCAA tournament. They recovered from a 20-point first-half deficit to top The Citadel in 1978.

This one carried its share of significant ramifications.

Clemson maintained hold of third place in the ACC standings while knocking off one of its chief competitors for a first-round conference tournament bye, which go to the league's top four finishers.

The victory ensured Clemson will conclude with its best conference record in a decade. Win remaining regular-season games at Georgia Tech (Thursday) and against Virginia Tech (Sunday), the Tigers can notch their most wins in an ACC season.

The icing on top is that coach Oliver Purnell believes his team no longer will carry the burden of a decade-long NCAA tournament drought on its shoulders, regardless of what happens the rest of the way.

"This kind of cements it," Purnell said.

"Our belief and confidence keeps growing. This is a different team, and I think they've shown that."

Maryland led 59-39 with 11:21 remaining and appeared destined to hand Clemson its most lopsided loss of the season.

But Purnell reasoned that if the Tigers could narrow the deficit to double-digits, pressure would shift onto the Terps. And he was correct.

Within four minutes, Clemson whittled the margin to 60-53, but Maryland ratcheted its advantage back to 13 with 6:37 to go.

Then the Tigers witnessed the Mays of old.

Having discarded the bandage on his fractured left hand, Mays produced a tip-in, a three-point play and a dunk that pulled Clemson within 68-64 with 2:49 remaining.

Down by two, Mays then stole a pass at the top of the key and went coast-to-coast for a tying dunk with 0:45 left.

Maryland had a chance to rectify its collapse, but point guard Greivis Vasquez missed a tough driving leaner with 0:18 to go.

Clemson ran its staple play in which guard K.C. Rivers comes to the top of the key off a Trevor Booker screen.

Booker was covered inside, so Rivers dished to Oglesby on the right wing, who fired a 3 over 6-foot-7 Landon Milbourne.

The shot hit nothing but net, and Vasquez's desperation halfcourt heave sailed over the backboard, triggering a suffocating celebration around Mays and Oglesby at the Clemson bench.

"We stayed competitive on the defensive end," Oglesby said. "This team never quit."