At times, it looked almost easy, like scoring was a foregone conclusion for this Maryland basketball team and a blowout was only a matter of time. Jake Layman swished corner three-pointers. Seth Allen found himself with open jumpers from the free throw line, or breakaway layups after steals. Alex Len dunked with little effort, rarely inhibited despite constant double-teams.
Against a Virginia Tech squad rotating just six scholarship players, the Terrapins ran away with a 94-71 win in their ACC opener game behind a fervent sellout crowd at Comcast Center, bringing their winning streak to 13 and moving to 1-0 in the conference, a young group passing its first ACC test.
Layman and Allen combined for 41 points, each setting career highs in scoring and minutes, as Maryland was rarely challenged in the resounding rout.
All the talk and questions about the Terps’ weak nonconference schedule may still persist, especially given that the Hokies have now lost four of five. But Maryland certainly made a statement, never trailing after Layman opened the scoring with a corner three-pointer 11 seconds into the afternoon.
Since losing the season opener to Kentucky in Brookyln, N.Y., Maryland rarely has been challenged. Sure, Stony Brook mustered a late rally, but the Terps led by 20 points that game. George Mason was a single-digit win, but Maryland’s lead never seemed truly threatened.
And so the Terps entered Saturday afternoon expecting a physical dogfight, to run with the athletic Hokies and trade blows, seeking the rigors of ACC play that had been absent for the past two months. Instead, they rang up 94 points, their second-highest point total this season.
“It’s ACC time,” said Layman, who finished with 20 points despite not making a field goal after halftime. “We all have to step up for it, and I think I was ready for it. It was a great game for us.
“It’s one of the best leagues in the country. You have to bring it every night. Tonight we did.”
Alex Len finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Dez Wells added 12 points, four rebounds and four assists. After posting an 11-0 run in the first half, the Terps’ lead never approached single digits again.
“I was pleased with us today,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “I was greatly pleased with the crowd. The crowd was great from the opening tip until the end. It makes a huge difference. That’s why I came to Maryland. If we got it going the fans would be there for us. I’m really proud of my team. We weren’t great the whole game obviously, but we were good enough. We shared the ball again, guarded pretty good. We just didn’t rebound. That was the biggest negative, we didn’t rebound.”
If that was the biggest problem, then Turgeon must be secretly elated. Maryland shot 51.7 percent and held Virginia Tech to 37.3 percent despite 28 points from Erick Green. But Jarell Eddie – announced pregame as “Eddie Jarell” – shot just 2 for 12 from the field, while Robert Brown was 4 for 15. Sophomore forward C.J. Barksdale was benched because of what Coach James Johnson said was a lack of effort, and after foul trouble the Hokies were forced to stick a 6-foot-7 walk-on to guard Len.
When Layman cooled off in the second half, Allen took over, shooting 8 for 12 from the field and finishing with 21 points in 30 minutes.
“I didn’t think I’d do this good,” Allen said. “I just went out there and played. I was really anxious for this game, my first ACC play. I just tried to do the best I could do when I went out there. … It was fun.”
Virginia Tech is reeling, having lost three straight by at least 23 points for the first time in program history, so this win might matter less and less as the season progresses. But this win gives Maryland, which started two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, plenty of confidence moving into Wednesday’s matchup against Florida State.
Every Maryland player except Nick Faust, who was limited to five minutes with back spasms, and James Padgett scored. All 10 in Turgeon’s rotation had a rebound. But on this particular afternoon, it was Layman’s and Allen’s turn on the catwalk, a dual coming-out party in their ACC debuts.
“They are big-time players,” Turgeon said. “All of our new guys played well.”