>> For all the strides Jake Layman has made in his short time with the Maryland basketball team, going from just three points in 11 minutes during the season opener against Kentucky to a solid 20-minute, seven-point performance in a 67-45 win over Morehead State, there lingered one obvious problem, just staring right back into the freshman’s eyes.
That hair, those flowing blonde locks that have elicited comparisons to a certain former T.C. Williams football player, kept getting in the way. He missed three-pointers during Maryland’s exhibition against Indiana University of Pennsylvania because it kept darting in front, blinding him at inappropriate times.
“There’s a reason he was rated so high and recruited so hard,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Now if I could get him to get a haircut. It’s supposed to happen tomorrow. We’ll see.”
News of the impending snip elicited a predictable freakout on Twitter from fans who have, through just two games, grown to love the hair that shoots up like a flame whenever Layman leaves his feet. A parody account, @JLaymansHair, spawned within minutes of Turgeon’s comments. The general reaction ranged anywhere from a “No” with three O’s attached to one with 15.
Layman reassured reporters that the trim would be just that – a mild trim. He’s not buzzing or shaving anything. Just getting the hair out of the way so he can continue draining jumpers, swooning the Terps faithful with that splashy shot and California curls.
>> Before Turgeon concluded his press conference, he delivered an unprompted plea to Maryland students after an announced crowd of 8,724 turned out for the home opener.
“One thing, you guys,” Turgeon said, turning back to the podium. “We need students to come. [Friday's game vs. LIU-Brooklyn] is at 7 o’clock. We have a good product on the floor. Starting the game early so people can bring family, kids to the game. My kids don’t even come to the 8:00. I understand that. But we’re starting games early. Parents out there, buy some tickets for young kids. We’re going to play hard.”
Before the season started, the athletics department reported 9,253 sold season tickets, up from 9,009 during the 2012-13 season, so Friday night’s number likely came from turnstiles, and not actual tickets sold.
>> The Terps shot 48.9 percent against Morehead State, including 60.9 percent in the second half, finally finding their stroke after that dreadful opening 20 minutes vs. Kentucky on Friday night.
“I think we were all amped up for that game,” Turgeon said. “I did a poor job coaching that first half. We didn’t make any jumpers at the start of this game either. We missed a lot of jump shots. … We just wore them down getting in a rhythm offensively. We are missing a lot of shots that we are going to make as the year goes on. We need to get used to the system and playing in front of people. I think we are demanding them to execute a little better. I didn’t like our assist-to-turnover ratio tonight, but credit Morehead State tonight.”
That ratio, for what it’s worth, was 14-to-20.
>> After two sub-par performances during the exhibition and the opener against Kentucky, at times appearing well behind the college curve, Shaquille Cleare finally flashed the promise that had Maryland fans crowing over his potential as the team’s highest-prized recruit this offseason.
Cleare finished with eight points, six of which came on free throws, and five rebounds. He also deposited three Morehead State shots into the stands, each about five rows deep, rising up high with impeccable timing and rejecting them with authority.
“I was happy for Shaq today,” James Padgett said. “He had a good game.”
>> Turgeon singled out forward James Padgett as having a particularly effective 13 minutes. The senior captain finished with nine points, shooting 4 of 7 from the field. He’s developed some aggression and assertion down low, which will come in handy when opposing teams inevitably do what Morehead State did.
The Eagles doubled down on Alex Len, fronting the 7-footer and collapsing on him with help on the weak side. That left Padgett alone by the opposite block, just a skip and an entry pass away from solid position. Maryland went to him early, as the forward scored the game’s first points on a layup off a Len assist, and was whistled for a charge on a similar play during Maryland’s next possession. He also drew an and-one off a feed from Dez Wells that pushed the Terps’ lead to 13-7.
>> Point guard Pe’Shon Howard remarkably did not attempt a single shot in 23 minutes, but finished with seven assists, including that monstrous alley-oop to Wells, and three turnovers. That figures to be his role moving forward, running the offense with entry passes in the half-court and feeds in transition. Maryland certainly has enough scorers to get by without Howard entering the scoring column, but he’s an accurate enough shooter to provide consistency if the Terps really need it.
>> Seth Allen, Howard’s backup, had some trouble breaking Morehead State’s pressure, especially in half-court traps. A fleet-footed speedster with fancy dribbling skills, Allen can break down defenders one-on-one, but struggled when the Eagles jumped him off screens and doubled him up high. Twice Allen tried to split the two defenders, once drawing a foul and the other time turning it over. He finished with six points and four giveaways against just one assist after recording a 10-to-0 assist-to-turnover ratio through the exhibition and Kentucky game.