The leaps were apparent early in the season, when Maryland forward Jake Layman became the confident shooter for which everyone had been begging. He was curling off screens and firing at will, throwing up three fingers and grinning in celebration after key moments. Only one game passed in the season’s first month when Layman did not make multiple three-pointers in any given night, and that included his 27-point torching of Morgan State.
But as winter wore on, Layman’s struggles became more pronounced. In 16 ACC games, the sophomore is averaging less than 10 points per game and has committed nearly as many turnovers (21) as he has made three-pointers (22). Given that Layman’s turnover rate ranks among the top 160 players nationally, this speaks more to his cold snap behind the arc.
It all culminated Sunday afternoon against Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum, when Layman endured the worst shooting game of his short college career, going 1 for 14 on field goals and 1 for 9 on three-pointers. Confidence, something which Layman had struggled to find during an inconsistent freshman season, was not lacking, and in fact the Maryland coaching staff told him to keep shooting. “We got mad at him when he didn’t shoot,” Coach Mark Turgeon said Monday.
But the shots weren’t falling, so Layman finished with three points, six rebounds, four fouls, one assist and no other recorded statistics over 35 minutes during the double-overtime defeat. His 0.4 points per possession as his second-lowest mark of the season according to KenPom.com, behind only a two-point outing at Ohio State.
“Just a bad day for Jake,” Turgeon said after the game. “We needed something out of him. We kept going to him, ran a play for him, got a wide-open three. He missed a lot of shots and I was hoping that would get him going. But it just wasn’t his day.”
With last-place Virginia Tech coming to College Park on Tuesday, Layman had little time to dwell, and Turgeon planned to encourage him to keep firing against the Hokies zone. The third-year coach knows Maryland needs an outside threat during the postseason, particularly if it wants to make any noise, and Layman’s success is linked to Terps wins this season; he makes roughly twice as many three-pointers in victories.
“All the conversations that we’ll have leading up to tomorrow night’s game will be about being aggressive,” Turgeon said on the ACC coaches’ teleconference. “He’s going to make his next shot. He has to think that way. He’s had a good year, a bad day yesterday. Part of growing up, which we talked about, is maturing and moving on. That was a frustrating day. We came up short. We have to move on. We can’t think about Clemson, the way we played or the way you might have played. We have to be strong mentally and move forward. Hopefully Jake will do that.”
Asked about Layman, fellow forward Evan Smotrycz smiled. He had endured his share of shooting woes this season, only recently recovering with a strong game vs. Clemson.
“I’ve had plenty of nights like that,” Smotrycz said. “I’m not the person to comment on that. Definitely not. He’ll be fine.”
>> When point guard Seth Allen returned from his broken foot, Turgeon envisioned playing the sophomore off the ball, alongside freshman Roddy Peters, which would theoretically allow Allen to utilize his scoring skills without the burden of directing the offense.
“I thought we would do that more and it just hasn’t worked out that way,” Turgeon said.
Much of that can be traced back to Peters, who against Clemson logged double-digit minutes for just the second time since February began. He was turnover-free Sunday yet missed all three field goal attempts, but continued to draw praise from Turgeon for his coachability.
“He’s approaching the game a little bit differently,” Turgeon said. “He’s thinking of it as a point guard and not a scorer. That’s important for us. Defensively he’s just gotten so much better. He’s not a liability out there. We’re confident when he’s in there.”
Peters still hasn’t played more than 14 minutes since he and Allen traded places in the starting lineup, and Turgeon said the 11 he received against Clemson was “a good number.”