Of the Maryland basketball team’s four incoming freshmen, Shaquille Cleare was the prized recruit from Texas, the game-changing center with a college-ready body, while Jake Layman played for the United States’ under-18 national team this summer. And yet they’ve taken longer to adjust to the speed of college basketball than freshman counterparts Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell.
Cleare, Allen and Layman all earned the start during Wednesday’s 100-68 blowout over Maryland-Eastern Shore, an idea that originated because Coach Mark Turgeon wanted a way to get Cleare more playing time. They certainly didn’t disappoint.
“We’ve just been drilling these guys defensively, and Jake does extra work,” Turgeon said. “They’re getting much more comfortable. The game’s not moving as fast for them, this one especially wasn’t going to move as fast for them.”
Each logged a career high in minutes and set new career bests for points. Layman, who hadn’t scored since the LIU-Brooklyn game on Nov. 16, finished with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting including two three-pointers, while Cleare had 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Without Alex Len in the starting lineup, the Terrapins pounded the ball inside to Cleare, working through him on the first couple possessions. He sandwiched a baby hook and a layup around an assist to Layman, who scampered baseline on a back cut and soared high for the dunk.
“I had more time to get going,” Cleare said. “Keeping me in there longer; six minutes, that’s a lot of time. I think I’ll progress and dominate my six minutes instead of a couple minutes. That’s how you get your bigs going early. You give us the ball, down low they give it to you. Guards giving it back to us, us giving it to the guards.”
>> Guard Pe’Shon Howard played just four minutes, recording one defensive rebound and two assists before effectively removing himself from the game with a stomach ailment.
“He just said his stomach hurt. I was hoping, I didn’t know what it was,” Turgeon said. “Tell me when you’re ready, he said I’m done coach. He was done. Gave me a chance to play Nick [Faust] at point. His stomach was hurting, hopefully he’ll be able to practice tomorrow.”
Faust, who played point guard last season when Howard suffered his ACL injury, turned in a career-high seven assists, four of which went to Charles Mitchell in transition for easy layups.
“Nick’s trying so hard just to do what I ask,” Turgeon said. “That’s what I appreciate about Nick. Nick’s not caught up in anything but just trying to do what I ask and making sure our team wins games. I thought he over-dribbled a couple times, and that’s Nick, but he finished the play and got the ball to the bigs. Seven assists, one turnovers, that’s tremendous for Nick.”
Turgeon said that Faust, who finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, also didn’t take any bad shots, a point of emphasis for the sophomore throughout this season.
“He really pushes the ball,” Logan Aronhalt said of Faust. “When you have a wing coming to the point, you don’t run a lot of sets, so you really get up and down the floor, get into our secondary [break], get layups. You saw him, making good passes and creating open shots for guys.”
>> Alex Len failed to reach double-digit points for the first time this season, but still turned in an efficient nine points and nine rebounds in a season-low 17 minutes. He also played 17 minutes against Georgia Southern, scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Len hit all four of his field goals versus UMES.
>> Comcast Center got pretty loud when Conner Lipinski drained four free throws that gave Maryland 100 points for the first time since it hung 106 on Longwood on Feb. 9, 2011.
“Coach Turgeon said he wanted us to get to 100 and we finally did,” Aronhalt said. “The place was crazy. It went nuts. One of the loudest times I’ve heard since I’ve been here.”
>> Assistant coach Dalonte Hill, who has been dealing with blood clots in his leg and missed the George Mason game, was absent from the sideline Wednesday night. Turgeon said he hoped to have Hill back in the office by Thursday or Friday.