Terps still working to free Jake Layman for open looks


(Associated Press)

Jake Layman had electrified his Maryland teammates with a thunderous dunk against Virginia Tech, but three days later all the good vibes were gone. On the team’s first possession against North Carolina, he curled off a screen and let a pass bounce off his fingertips. His first shot came more than seven minutes into Tuesday night’s game as, once again, a strong defensive team dared him to succeed off the dribble.

By the end of Terrapins’ 12-point loss, Layman had scored seven points, leading Coach Mark Turgeon to again beg that he become more selfish. Six field goal attempts wouldn’t do, not for the player who leads Maryland in offensive efficiency (1.16 points per possession, according to kenpom.com). Turgeon wanted somewhere between 10 and 12, something Layman has done just twice since ACC play began.

“I tell our team all the time, I tell Jake all the time, he’s got to shoot more,” Turgeon said. “Jake’s the one guy on our team I say you’ve got to be more selfish. He had the [Isaiah] Hicks guarding him, who’s a freshman, we were chasing him off screens and Jake didn’t get a shot off. I said, ‘Jake, I put you in that for a reason with that kid chasing you.’ He’s got to be a little more selfish. He’s got to score a little bit more for us.”

Part of this evidently stems from a desire to listen and work through Turgeon’s system, something Layman’s teammates have struggled with this season. But as Layman makes a quick pass within the motion offense, another Maryland player “is jacking it up before he gets a chance to do it,” Turgeon said.

During the second half against the Tar Heels, the Terps added two wrinkles to their offense that freed up Layman at the rim, something he doesn’t do well on his own. Both times Layman either set a screen or hedged a screen, creating a mismatch that allowed him to use his athleticism in space.

“We haven’t really done that before and foul trouble led us to that,” Layman said. “It was working out for us, it was spreading the floor out. We got some great shots out of that.”

The first came just before the under-12 officials’ timeout, when Maryland was behind by 12 points. It was a basic screen-and-roll action with Nick Faust. But rather than pop to the corner, like he often does for three-pointers, Layman spun quick and recognized that, because center Shaq Cleare had pulled his defender far enough into the short corner to vacate the paint, the entire left side was open. Faust penetrated, Layman rolled with him and got an easy dunk.


“It worked out well,” Layman said. “Not just even [getting] towards the basket, but moving more in general, just me screening more and cutting more, stuff like that.”

The second came after the under-8 officials’ timeout and was a set piece Turgeon drew up during the break. Maryland sometimes operates out of this “horns” look, but big men like Charles Mitchell, Cleare, Jon Graham, Damonte Dodd or even Evan Smotrycz do the screening, not a wing like Layman.

Typically, the ballhandler – in this case Dez Wells – picks a side and works off that screen. In this case, though, the Terps brought Smotrycz high on the right wing. This emptied the paint, so Layman faked the screen and slip-cut to the basket. Maryland knew that North Carolina likes to deny entry passes and hedge hard on screen defense, so Layman caught his defender overplaying the dribble. He dived towards the hoop and had an open look, but Wells threw the pass off the backboard.


“We’ve done some of that,” Turgeon said when asked about using Layman as a screener. “But there’s a reason you have a system and the system helps get you shots. There’s a lot of things in our system where he is the screener first. Originally what it does, it gets other guys open because they’re not going to help off Jake. But eventually if we take care of that part they’re going to start helping off and it’s going to get him more shots. There’s a reason you do certain things. For us, it’s still trying to click at the highest level.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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