Surprise teams Clemson, Maryland do battle in ACC/Big Ten

NCAA

Two teams that weren’t highly regarded before the season began will put unbeaten records on the line Wednesday night when Clemson plays host to Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Clemson (3-0) and Maryland (4-0) both were tabbed for 10th-place finishes in their respective league’s preseason polls.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon sees his and coach Brad Brownell’s Clemson team as equals.

“Preseason predictions really don’t mean that much. I imagine he thinks they’re a lot better than their prediction, and we kind of feel the same way about our team,” Turgeon said. “It’ll be a good matchup.”

The Terrapins will be playing their first road game of the season — and for the first time this season there will be fans on hand to witness. Littlejohn Coliseum, which normally has a capacity of 9,000, has been approved to hold 1,860 masked and socially distanced fans.

“Even though the building won’t be sold out, they get a couple thousand fans, so the environment will be a little different than what we’ve been used to,” Turgeon said. “They’re going to test us.”

Maryland has three regulars back from last year’s 24-7 that shared the Big Ten’s regular-season title — senior Darryl Morsell, junior Eric Ayala and sophomore Donta Scott. Ayala is the team’s leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, but sophomore guard Hakim Hart is coming off a career-best 32-point game in a 33-point win against Saint Peters. Hart entered that game with 45 career points in 21 games.

“I’m very impressed with their guard play — big guards that can all dribble, pass and shoot,” Brownell said. “They’ve got a bunch of guys who handle it. High IQ, high skill, just really impressed with the way they do things.”

The Terrapins have six players averaging nine points or more and are shooting a blistering 56 percent from the floor, which ranks first in the Big Ten and eighth nationally.

“They’re set up well,” Brownell said. “You can tell they’re a team that’s won. Their guys are used to winning, they play with confidence.”

Clemson is coming off a 16-15 season and 9-11 mark in the ACC, but was the only team in the nation to knock off three Top 5 teams a year ago.

This season’s team is off to a 3-0 start for just the second time in five years and may possess more depth than any team in Brownell’s 11 seasons. The Tigers have started eight different players and have 11 players who are averaging more than 10 minutes a game.

“They’ve got a really good mix of players; they remind me a lot of us,” Turgeon said. “They might even have a little more depth than we have. They’ve had a lot of points coming off the bench, a lot of good players coming off the bench, and their starters are veterans who have been there and played well for them, so they’ve got a nice team.”

It will be the first game between the teams since Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten after the 2013-14 season.

–Field Level Media

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