Layman Makes Things Happen in Home Opener

COLLEGE PARK, Md.--Maryland sophomore Jake Layman scored 19 points and the Terps beat Abilene Christian 67-44, on Wednesday night at the Comcast Center.

The box score said Jake Layman scored 19 points and Maryland beat Abilene Christian 67-44 in the Terrapins' home-opener Wednesday in Comcast Center.

And while Layman was instrumental, even though he didn't start this game, it wasn't his offense that teammate Charles Mitchell credited with turning the game around. It was his defense.

"It's Jake's energy that gets us going," said Mitchell, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds. "Just him at the top of our press, getting his hand on passes, making steals."

The Terrapins (1-1) needed large doses of that energy in a semi-somnambulant performance that coach Mark Turgeon blamed on himself. He didn't go over newly-returned-to-Division I Abilene Christian's sets much this week in preparation because they're so similar to much of what the Terrapins do, and he hoped it might help keep the team fresher mentally.

Instead, Maryland struggled much of the night until a 29-0 run to end the game accounted for the Terrapins' 36th consecutive victory in home openers.

"I didn't have us ready for the home opener and to play that way is not good," said Turgeon. "We went through it yesterday and didn't put a lot of time into it today."

Perhaps that's why the giddy Wildcats (0-3) drained open three-pointers and built and 11-point first half lead before Maryland woke up to close to with a point at the half. The Terrapins were still down 44-38 when Harrison Hawkins hit a three-pointer with 14:12 to play, Abilene Christian's 10th triple of the game on a night when the Wildcats often bedeviled Terrapin defenders who looked like they would rather be someplace else.

But as it turns out, Hawkins' heave would be the visitors' final field goal of the night as that Terrapin defense warmed up into something Turgeon recognized. Layman also took matters into his own hands at the offensive end, scoring eight straight points and 14 of 16 Maryland points at one juncture.

"There wasn't concern but there was frustration in the first half because we know we can play better than that," said Layman, who hit 7-of-14 shots, 4-of-8 from three. "It's something we have to work on. Our energy was just terrible. We knew in the second half we just needed energy."

Layman's hustle atop a variety of three-quarter and half court presses and his three-point shooting was like a Red Bull going down the gullet for the Terrapins, who began to warm up and get the crowd of 9,117 into the game, too. Maryland held the Wildcats scoreless the final 14:11, limited them to 0-17 shooting and forced half of ACU's 16 turnovers over that span.

Dez Wells, who got benched for a long stretch in the first half, scored on a drive and then Layman took over. His three pulled Maryland to within 44-43, and then his baseline drive gave the Terrapins their first lead (at 12:23) since 10:20 of the first half. Nick Faust forced a bad shot by Hawkins, and Layman got a three-point play. The 48-44 lead was Maryland's largest of the game to that point.

Terps' pressure forced a turnover and Faust hit two free throws. Maryland forced a missed shot and Wells found Layman for another three-pointer. Another ACU miss, and another Layman three, this one from the baseline, as Layman completed his torrid stretch.

"I think with Jake it's all confidence," said Turgeon. "Late in the year he was pretty good, had some pretty good games for us. This is another level. I told our guys after Connecticut that Jake's got to get more shots."

A thigh bruise, suffered in practice this week, forced Layman from the starting lineup (don't practice, don't start is a Turgeon rule), and there was some excitement as freshman Roddy Peters moved into the starting lineup for the first time.

The lineup was a source of some consternation, particularly when Wells went to the bench after playing five minutes and didn't return. "Dez and I had a miscommunication, something I didn't like," said Turgeon. "That's why he didn't play the rest of the half, didn't start the second half. Dez and I have a great relationship, not a good one, a great one so I'm not concerned about it at all but this early in the season you have to set the rules."

But Wells was up in the first minute of the second half and into the game. "Dez got the message," said Mitchell. "He's our leader and Coach wants him to become a better leader. He was just showing him that nobody is bigger than the team and (we) have to stay together and play as one."

Wells finished with four points, four rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes. It was his fewest points since the Clemson home win Feb. 23, when he also had four, and his fewest minutes since he had just nine against Iowa in the NIT.

Evan Smotrycz helped pick up the slack with 11 points and six rebounds, and Faust chipped in 11 points and was steadier his second game this year with 4-9 shooting, two assists and three turnovers. The Terrapins committed 17 turnovers, which translated to 15 ACU points, 12 in the first half.

The Wildcats got three-pointers from Hawkins and Austin Cooke to push their lead to 41-34 with 16:29 to play. Mitchell was starting to make things happen inside, though. He hit a spinning, falling shot and then scored on a reverse layup as bodies flew inside. Maryland closed to 41-38 at 15:15.

"The game always starts inside-out," said Mitchell, part of a 45-12 advantage for Maryland in points in the paint. "Once you get the low post going, open shots start to go."

Still, when Cooke hit his third three-pointer of the game, Maryland trailed 35-29 with 18:32 to play. But Peters drove and got his first basket, and after a couple of ACU turnovers, Mitchell hit a free throw and then Smotrycz scored inside to cut the margin back to 35-34 at 17:45.

Cooke had 12 points, and Harrison and 5-9 Parker Wentz each had 13. They hit all of the Wildcats' three-pointers but the team shot just 20.8 percent (5-of-24) in the second half to finish at 31.5 percent for the game.

Maryland hit 26-of-53 shots (49.1 percent, but was just 4-of-18 from three-point range, all by Layman. A 41-23 rebounding advantage and Maryland's 36-0 edge in bench scoring – remember Layman came off the bench -- made the difference in a game that probably never should have been close.

Abilene Christian's pregame notes called Maryland "the highest profile opponent in program history." After a 31-year stint in Division II, Abilene Christian is moving back up this year and rejoining the Southland Conference.

Maryland returns to action Sunday, hosting Oregon State at 6 p.m., and knowing the Terrapins need to get out of the gates better.

Peters finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists and four turnovers in his first start, playing 22 minutes. Shaquille Cleare also started but got in early foul trouble and played just 13 minutes with one point, two rebounds, two blocks and three turnovers. Turgeon said the sophomore big man is pressing.

The coach also admitted Mitchell might have started if he had "practiced the way (Turgeon) wanted him to practice this week." He started the second half. Also expect Layman and Wells to start Sunday.

"(Wells) is the one that got Jake going," said Turgeon. "He really found Jake on a lot of those. He had a couple of sloppy turnovers early, really wasn't into it. The second half I don't think he turned it over and did a lot of nice things. He got the break going."

Meanwhile, Turgeon thought Layman's success was also partly due to him missing practice yesterday. "He was our freshest guy," the coach said. "And Dez not playing the first half, he looked fresh in the second half, too."

Layman had only seven shots in the Connecticut loss Friday, something Turgeon pointed out to the team. "We have to do a better job of getting Jake shots, and I thought we did that tonight. He got his legs underneath him and got his second wind the second half."

Maryland trailed 30-29 at the half but only after a 12-2 run over the final 4:08, brought the Terps that close. Smotrycz scored five straight points to start the run, and then assisted Mitchell inside. When Varun Ram forced a turnover and Faust got a three-point play in transition, Maryland had cut an 11-point deficit to 28-25 with 3:20 left.

Hawkins snuck inside for a score but then Layman drove for a basket and Jonathan Graham forced a turnover after Mitchell missed two free throws. Mitchell scored with 44 seconds remaining to pull Maryland within one after a horrid half that saw Turgeon bench Wells for all but five minutes.

The disgruntled coach also played some unusual combinations with Graham, Ram, Damonte Dodd (three blocked shots) and even John Auslander seeing duty. Mitchell had eight points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes, after Cleare picked up his second foul early. The Terrapins also had 12 turnovers that went directly to 12 Abilene Christian points.

Maryland had led 13-12 at 10:20, when Mitchell scored inside. The first of two three-pointers by Cooke put the Wildcats back on top and started a 16-4 spree, Abilene Christian leading 28-17 at 4:26 when Wentz hit one of his three first half three-pointers.

"I feel like our team didn't respect them in the first couple of minutes of the game," said Mitchell. "We came out flat with no energy. We had to pick it up."

The Terrapins dug the hole against the Wildcats, shooting and missing three-point shots, and with the old bugaboo – turnovers. Abilene Christian led 18-13 after back-to-back threes from Cooke. Almost 12 minutes in, the Terps were 1-of-7 behind the arc and had six turnovers. The Wildcats hit four of their first eight three-point attempts and had just one turnover, handling a variety of Maryland defenses all applied with a laissez-faire effort that had Turgeon shedding his suit-jacket early.

"I thought Abilene Christian was great in the first half," said Turgeon.

The Terrapin bench outscored Abilene Christian's substitutes 15-0 in the first half.

Maryland last lost a home opener back in 1976, falling 80-79 to Notre Dame in Cole Field House.

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