CLEMSON — The second half got off to an inauspicious start for Clemson as K.C. Rivers was forced to call a timeout off the opening inbounds play, unable to find anyone open from the midcourt line.
Several players were sure coach Oliver Purnell would point out their lackadaisical defense on a couple of late 3-pointers, but even Purnell was hard-pressed to find much more fault with the Tigers once they finally tossed the ball in play.
Sparked by Trevor Booker’s rebound dunk, No. 13 Clemson erupted for 59 second-half points, breaking open a tight game two minutes into the second half in a 93-64 rout of Maryland on Tuesday night.
Two days removed from a stunning upset loss at struggling Virginia, the Tigers showed it might be premature to count them out of the race for second place in the ACC.
“Maryland was playing good ball before they came in here,” Booker said. “We took it to them and showed we’re not somebody to be played with.”
Sophomore guard Terrence Oglesby led six scorers in double figures with 16 points.
But strong outings from sophomore point Demontez Stitt and junior forward Trevor Booker spearheaded the charge as the Tigers (21-4, 7-4 ACC) moved into a tie with Duke for second place in the conference with five regular-season games remaining. Clemson travels to last-place Georgia Tech for a 1 p.m. game Sunday.
“The recognition (that) this was an ACC stretch-run game on our home court certainly sank in, and (we had) one of our better games of the year at an opportune time,” Purnell said.
The rout might have been a dagger to the NCAA tournament hopes of the Terrapins (16-9, 5-6), who had won three of their past four games to stir hope of a late-season surge.
Landon Milbourne led Maryland with 13 points, but the team shot 38.3 percent and missed an inordinate amount of layups before the score got out of hand.
Stitt had his best showing in a month, notching 15 points off three 3-pointers while consistently penetrating to collapse Maryland’s defense.
Booker, meanwhile, contributed 11 points and 14 rebounds — adding to both categories with a momentum-swinging slam with 17:33 remaining.
Clemson led 40-35 when Oglesby missed a 3 from the right corner. Booker, standing underneath the far side of the rim, jumped early but hung long enough to sling down the high rebound, sending a charge through the near-capacity Littlejohn Coliseum crowd.
The Tigers went on a 15-4 run the next four minutes and poured it on from there, expanding their lead to 28 with 9:29 to go.
“We missed some shots, they made theirs and took it out right away,” Terps coach Gary Williams said. “We had to match that, and we didn’t do that.”
The 29-point margin of victory marked Clemson’s largest in its series against Maryland, eclipsing a 22-point triumph in 1977.
The Tigers shot 68.8 percent in the second half, and its 59-point total matched its highest output in a half this season.
“We know we’re one of the top teams in the conference if we just come out with the same intensity we did against Duke and tonight,” Stitt said.
“I think this was a big step forward for us.”