CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – There was a moment three summers ago, sitting courtside at the Peach Jam AAU tournament in South Carolina, when Mark Turgeon first took notice of Jake Layman. He was still coaching Texas A&M then, so the prospect of luring the lanky Massachusetts forward halfway across the country was still dim. But Turgeon knew what he wanted.
“I said I want the white kid in the high socks,” Turgeon recalled. “That’s who I want.”
On Thursday night, Layman returned to his home state for the second time since committing to Maryland, the program he grew up watching because so many family members lived there. His last homecoming went poorly. He started but missed 4 of 5 three-pointers and had only one more point (five) than fouls (four) in a 69-58 loss to Boston College.
This one went far better. Layman scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, adjusting to a porous Eagles defense that seemed perfectly content to allow constant lane penetration.
“Last year I had a terrible game, our team didn’t do great here,” Layman said. “It was great to get the win.”
The other Massachusetts native, forward Evan Smotrycz, fouled out with 1 minute and 57 seconds left and scored in single digits (nine points) for just the second time all season. All three of his field goals were three-pointers. Smotrycz didn’t make the road trip last season, because he was sitting out per NCAA rules after transferring from Michigan.
“It was big for them to come home,” Turgeon said. “You could tell they were pretty focused on trying to play well.”
>> Turgeon supported his promise to play forward Jon Graham more. He was first off the bench after center Shaquille Cleare picked up an early foul and finished with 21 mistake-free minutes. Graham blocked one shot, grabbed four rebounds and tipped in a Dez Wells miss with 1:20 left that put Maryland ahead 80-74.
“That was the play of the game for me,” Wells said. “That was the play of the game. He played great tonight.”
>> Here’s Boston College Coach Steve Donahue on defending Wells:
“They were playing pretty simple at that point. Dez Wells was going to drive it. It was pretty apparent. We talked about it, really being in the gaps, probably similar to what they were talking about with Olivier [Hanlan]. I thought they did a pretty good job on Olivier in terms of making it difficult.
“I thought Olivier did a great job. Dez Wells gets no assists. He’s not someone who finds guys. That’s the difference. Olivier did it and he has eight assists and gets to the foul line 16 times. What I tried to stress to the guys is Dez Wells isn’t a passer. He’s a heck of a driver. I think what happens with our group is it’s young guys who are still figuring out how they’re going to win.
“When it got late, particularly on the defensive end, you start gravitating to your man because I don’t want my man to score. There’s an insecurity and a lack of confidence [instead of] ‘I’m going to be in the gap and make you kick to that guy and I’m going to close out hard and stop that. I have to help my teammate.’ That’s what Maryland was doing at that time. We don’t have that attitude yet on the defensive end.”
>> Wells took umbrage with Turgeon’s statement that the junior “put [Maryland] on his back.”
“I disagree,” Wells said. “I think my teammates helped me. I think my coaches helped me and the fans who traveled. Everybody. It’s not just me, it’s not just Nick it’s not just Roddy it’s all of us. We came together as a team. We figured out how to stop them and we did that and we came away with the win.”
When challenged on if he would only publicly refute Turgeon in such circumstances of high praise, Wells replied, “Yeah probably. Yeah.”