Quiet by nature and often unassuming off the dribble, opposing teams sometimes, inexplicably, forget about Jake Layman. The sophomore leads the Maryland men’s basketball team in scoring by a wide margin and still finds himself alone in open space as his teammates attack the basket, with seemingly endless time to launch the clinical jumper that belongs on teaching tapes.
An 89-62 win over Morgan State on Friday night showcased Layman at his most potent and by extension how dangerous the Terrapins can become when he makes shots, particularly when he slinks past defenses into the corner. His 27 points were a career best, and so were the seven made three-pointers that got him there, many of which came as defenders lunged from several yards away.
“Tonight was easy because they were leaving me wide open,” Layman said. “Sometimes I was like, ‘It’s weird being this wide open.’ ”
With the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at seventh-ranked Ohio State up next on Wednesday, Maryland (5-2) got exactly what it needed from the Bears: an easy tuneup that bridged the gap from the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, one fueled by crisp offensive execution (1.28 points per possession), accurate shooting (62.3 percent and 65 percent on three-pointers) and a lack of letdowns.
The Terps built big enough leads that they could afford to take several post-Thanksgiving naps, lasting without field goals for separate three-minute spans in the first half and still waking up to double-digits leads. Coach Mark Turgeon had fretted over these hangovers, worrying that both the lackluster holiday Comcast Center crowd of 9,517 and the excitement over their regular season tournament championship this week would affect his team.
Instead, Maryland played its most unselfish half of the season, assisting on 15 of 17 field goals by intermission, at which point it led 45-31. To wit, on one first-half possession, both Nick Faust and Charles Mitchell passed up contested shots — shots preseason versions of themselves might have attempted — to eventually find a wide-open Layman behind the perimeter, a shot he has made over half the time this season.
“It’s all part of our maturation process,” Turgeon said.
Against the Bears, who earned their first win of the season to finish seventh at the Paradise Jam, the early rout allowed Turgeon to tinker with his lineup and experiment with different maneuvers. So the Terps aggressively doubled post-entry passes to Morgan State’s 7-foot-2 center, Ian Chiles (17 points). They worked on their press and zone offense, both to effectiveness, and gave more minutes to freshman Damonte Dodd, who didn’t play against Northern Iowa and Providence on the tropical island because of a coach’s decision.
Not everything was new. Early in the second half, Maryland kept bludgeoning Morgan State (1-7) with both Layman and Evan Smotrycz (19 points on 7-for-10 shooting), its two best shooters. The pair of Massachusetts natives nailed consecutive three-pointers from opposite wings that expanded the lead to nearly 20 points. Then a furious, soaring dunk from Dez Wells (12 points) in transition made it 57-36. Turgeon could start thinking early about resting his starters and emptying the bench, while Bears Coach Todd Bozeman was reduced to telling his players after fouls, “Let it go. Let it go. Just play.”
“It’s tough to guard,” said Smotrycz, who also grabbed 12 rebounds for his second straight double-double. “Then you have to respect it even more, and Nick and Dez will kind of just dunk all over you. Some stretches we looked really good. Some stretches we played really bad, but if we’re hitting and they’re finishing, we look good.”
A relatively inconsequential possession underscored the ease of Maryland’s win, even if the latter minutes became bogged down by fouls as the pace grinded to a halt. Midway through the second half, there was no one between Faust and the basket, so the junior guard took two steps from the free throw line and slammed down a dunk, the only resistance coming from a feeble belly slap by Chiles. The paint was entirely open. All the Terps needed to do was waltz in.