COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland had just watched its 20-point lead dwindle all the way down to nine points against Florida State Feb. 8. There was only a minute left in the game, but the Seminoles had the momentum and the ball, and with a couple quick 3s could have easily spoiled the Terps' efforts.
Jake Layman wasn't about to let that happen. The sophomore forward, whose defense has been critiqued all season, made perhaps the play of the game when he knocked the ball away from FSU's Devon Bookert; high-tailed it down the court; and dove head first onto the hardwood, securing a tie-up and the UMD possession.
The Maryland bench, as well as the Comcast Center fans, erupted, and Florida State (14-9, 5-6 ACC) didn't score another point after that as Maryland (14-10, 6-5) emerged with an 83-71 victory.
"That was great for Jake," Terps head coach Mark Turgeon said. "We were kind of limping in to the finish there, and Jake dove and really took [FSU's] spirit there. That was a winning play."
"I knew it was a huge play for us," said Layman, who added 12 points and five rebounds, in addition to two steals. "[The Seminoles] were on a tear offensively, getting foul after foul, and-one after and-one. So it was big for our team. When I got up and turned around [the bench] was going crazy. It was great to see."
That sequence was great to see, but so was Maryland's defense as a whole (aside from the rebounding battle, which UMD lost 38-31). Almost a month after losing to FSU by 24 points and watching their defense get embarrassed to the tune of 16 3-pointers allowed -- an ACC record against an ACC foe this year -- the Terps turned up the intensity, especially in the first 20 minutes.
Florida State came in ranked third in the conference in field-goal percentage (.470) and 3-point percentage (.370), but UMD made a statement out of the gate. After the Noles drained a trey to open the game, the Terps buckled down and allowed just one more deep jumper the rest of the half, holding FSU to a 2-of-7 performance. Florida State shot just 35.5 percent that first frame, and turned the ball over nine times as well, allowing the Terps to run out to a 46-29 halftime lead.
"They beat the crap out of us last game. So we came in with a chip on our shoulder and wanted to prove we're the better team," said sophomore point Seth Allen, who scored a career-high 32 points but also had two steals and influenced numerous plays defensively. "We played hard, and give credit to us defensively.
"We really pressured the ball. Whenever they were on the 3-point line holding the ball, we really got up on them and made passes harder so they couldn't pick our defense apart. We have long guys like Jake, Nick [Faust] who were getting hands in passing lanes, and then me and Dez [Wells] anticipating passes, that was big."
Florida State ended the game shooting 38.1 percent and hitting 5-of-12 from 3-point range. The Noles made a bit of a run in the second half and canned a trio of treys, but compared to the Jan. 12 UMD-FSU bout, Maryland will undoubtedly take five converted 3s. It helped that FSU's Ian Miller, who had six treys by himself in the first meeting, was out with a foot injury, but the rest of the Seminoles' sharpshooters, including Aaron Thomas (17 points) and Bookert (14 points), mostly had to work for their shots.
"We just had more focus on the defensive end," Layman said. "Some games, and even a little today, teams make runs on us when we get a little lazy defensively. But for the most part we just wanted it tonight and played great defensively and really pressured their shooters."
Turnover prone coming into the match (FSU sits dead last in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio), Florida State's ball-handling woes continued. The Terps had hands in passing lanes all afternoon and came away with nine steals, while forcing 16 turnovers.
One of the more significant ones came at the end of the first half after FSU had cut its deficit to nine points -- and naturally Seth Allen played a major role. The sophomore responded to Bookert's jumper with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to double digits. Then he immediately picked Montay Brandon's pocket before dashing down the floor and feeding Wells, who in turn hit Layman for a dagger 3.
While Allen will garner headlines for his 32 points, it was the defensive stops that really stood out to Turgeon and the point guard himself. Since returning from his broken foot injury, Allen has looked a step slow when guarding quicker opponents. Last game, in a loss to North Carolina, counterpart Marcus Paige routinely beat Allen off the ball and poured in 25 points.
"I can't sit here and say I had one good game and I'm back [from the injury]," Allen said. "And right now it's more so defensively with lateral movement. I'm not as quick laterally as I want, but I know it's going to come in time… but I just want to keep playing and playing well on the defensive end."
Besides Allen's play and the perimeter defense, Maryland did well getting back in transition, according to Turgeon. The head man said he harped on transition defense, and defense in general, after watching UNC run rampant over the Terps the last game.
"We did an hour-and-a-half of an hour-and-45-minute practice Thursday on defense, so we really made a concerted effort," Turgeon said. "It's good to see the guys get rewarded for a good defensive effort. [FSU] still got to 71, but holding them to 38 percent is pretty good."
The effort was far from perfect, however. Maryland still committed 20 fouls, which allowed FSU to mount a comeback, and surrendered 20 second-chance points, the result of 20 Noles offensive rebounds. Layman mentioned how the Terps picked it up on the glass late, but during the first half UMD's bigs allowed FSU's post players to assert their will. On top of that, Florida State started to garner more open looks in the game's waning minutes, drawing Turgeon's ire.
"Down the stretch, [the Noles] were switching screens and I have to do better preparing [the Terps] for some of those things," Turgeon said. "And we just can't turn it over, that hurt us down the stretch; we have to handle the lead a little bit better. And our rebounding is not where it needs to be. We continue to work on that and talk about it. That's really the next big step for our defense."
Maryland will need to take that big step fairly quickly, because in two days the Terps travel to Charlottesville, Va., home of the No. 20 Wahoos. Then five days after that, it's No. 11 Duke in Durham, N.C., before games against Wake Forest and No. 1 Syracuse.
"We've got a tough schedule coming up… so it's tough to build [on this game]," Allen said. "We can't really dwell on this game because we play again Monday, but we need to build on this defensive effort going forward."
Terps Dial in Defensively Against FSU
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