The first postgame question Evan Smotrycz answered Friday night was about Jake Layman’s blonde hair and one of the last was about the triple-chocolate cake Nick Faust’s mother made for Thanksgiving, so that about summarized how the Maryland basketball team’s 89-62 rout over Morgan State went.
“It was a good night for us,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “We did a lot of things well.”
After a three-game, beachside winning streak at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a lengthy weather-induced layover in Charlotte, all the inherent gluttony associated with Thanksgiving and the typically lackluster crowds that often follow it, Turgeon had reason to worry about a multi-faceted hangover against the Bears. But the Terrapins gave him little to fret over, bursting to a double-digit lead early and not wavering in a victory best served as an easy transition into their biggest challenge of the season next week.
Ohio State is up next, on Wednesday. Yet on Friday, Maryland received a career-high 27 points from Jake Layman that included seven three-pointers; a second straight double-double from Smotrycz (19 points, 12 rebounds); another balanced outing from Dez Wells (12 points, five rebounds, four assists, four turnovers); and a thoroughly unselfish dismantling of a one-win team.
“It was good,” Turgeon said. “It was good to have a game like that, get to play a lot of guys, share the minutes. All part of our maturation process. Would I rather it have been 30 at halftime instead of the game? Absolutely.”
Instead, the Terps were up only 14 points at halftime. Morgan State had no answer for Layman, sometimes forgetting about the sharpshooter entirely, and the sophomore responded by making 9 of 12 attempts, including 7 of 10 from the perimeter. Smotrycz made four of six three-pointers, and confidently asserted later that he’s the better shooter among the lanky Massachusetts natives.
“Me,” he said. “Me. Numbers don’t lie.”
Except the numbers tilt toward Layman, who boosted his season three-point percentage to 51.1. Much of his success Friday night stemmed from an overly altruistic defense, which often helped two or three defenders to stop lane penetration as Layman slinked, unchecked, into the corner.
“It spreads the floor out so much for us,” Layman said. “When our guards are penetrating, it opens up lanes for them and lanes for shooters too. It works out well. Tonight it was easy because they were leaving me wide open. I was feeling it tonight when I had the open look. I don’t know. I was wide open a lot. That’s what got me going.”
Said Smotrycz: “Guys were really looking for the extra guy and it carried over. That’s a fun way to play when guys are looking for teammates, when we can draw defenders, beat our initial guy and make the pass. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Business officially handled, the attention turns to the seventh-ranked Buckeyes, who await in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Terps will take Saturday off before three straight days of practicing and then their flight to Columbus. For Smotrycz, a Michigan transfer who has not won at Value City Arena, the matchup may carry some extra weight. But he and Layman both insisted the opportunity to face a top-10 team, in their first true road game of the season, will provide more than enough motivation.
“If our point guys can handle that pressure, it’ll be a big step for us,” Smotrycz said, right after he talked about cake.