Offense, Depth and Donta Scott: Three takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball’s first loss at Clemson

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The Terps were looking to extend their record to 5-0 to start the season, instead, Clemson handed them their first loss and left them with more to learn moving forward. Clemson’s overall dominance pitted against Maryland’s uninspired play translated to a Tiger victory on a 67-51 scoreline.

“We gotta respond,” senior Darryl Morsell said. “We’ll go back, look at the film, see what we can improve on.”

Here are my three takeaways from Wednesdays ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Clemson. 

Clemson’s defense was better than Maryland’s offense. 

A combination of poor shooting, tentativeness, and a slew of needless turnovers inevitably led to Maryland’s downfall. However, what stood out was the Tiger’s relentlessness on the defensive side of the ball.

“We were out of sync all night,” head coach Mark Turgeon said “We were never really in sync offensively.”

Clemson’s defensive prowess was evident early and resulted in a tepid first half performance by Maryland. The Terps shot below 30% from the charity stripe and three point line and converted just six field goals by the end of the half. Maryland totaled just 15 points in the first half. This, coupled with 10 turnovers in the first period, guided the Tigers to a considerable lead that the Terps were never able to overcome. Although the turnovers subsided and Maryland found a steady and efficient offense in the second half, it took just a conservative effort of maintaining the lead by Clemson to finally nail the Terps. 

Aamir Simms is a big time player, as advertised. 

Clemson forward Aamir Simms led both teams in scoring with 16 points. And Simms, just as the defense did, asserted his dominance early, tallying 12 points in his first 13 minutes of play. The work of the senior big was largely due to Maryland’s lack of depth at the center position. The lack of a confident, consistent force at the five has previously been negligible when it came to influencing Maryland’s ability to beat teams. However, as Maryland looks to play more talented programs in the Big Ten led by skillful bigs such as Iowa’s Luka Garza and Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn, their negligible traits will quickly turn into glaring drawbacks moving forward. The Terps have to find a reliable center if they hope to capture the same success in the Big Ten as they have in years past. 

Donta Scott’s success on the offensive end continues.

At the end of the first half and especially as Clemson’s lead began to diminish, Donta Scott was the biggest difference maker for Maryland offensively. He was the only Terp to knock down a three in the first-half and led the team with 11 points. The sophomore big continued his success by leading a more lively offensive charge in the second half with eight points. Scott’s scoring in the final half fueled the 17-4 run by the Terps that helped cut Clemson’s 23 point lead to just 12. 

“I thought Donta played with a lot more toughness in the second half,” Turgeon said. “He’s been arguably our best player the last two games,” 

While Scott’s scoring had no major impact on the final scoreline, his efforts were a continuation of his gradual improvement from his freshman season. It’s also another sign that Scott will play a bigger role throughout the season as Maryland’s go-to force in the frontcourt.