COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Third-ranked Maryland showed off some of the traits that got them to that lofty ranking Nov. 13 at Xfinity Center. The Terrapins opened up, the virtual appetizer before the Nov. 17 long-awaited showdown with Georgetown, scoring an 80-56 victory over Mount St. Mary’s.
Run down the checklist. Maryland (1-0) had balanced scoring, ruled the glass, wore down the Northeast Conference favorite with depth and long-arms that eventually strangled the Mountaineer offense, and senior forward Jake Layman played with confidence that has now built to a crescendo during his career.
“I feel confident, my shot feels good right now,” he said. “It’s more, for me, defensively, being able to guard the ball, which is going to be a task all year long. Having guys like Diamond (Stone), Rob (Carter), (Michal) Ceko(vsky) and Damonte (Dodd), who have all improved over the summer, really helps. I’m getting a lot more open shots than I have in the past.”
Noted. Layman was 7-of-10 from the field for a team-high 16 points, and added five rebounds, two blocks and two steals. His work at the other end, part of aTerrapin forest of long limbs inside and seeping out to the perimeter helped shut down the Mountaineers (0-1) in the second half and turn this into just the kind of tune-up the Terrapins needed heading to the Nov. 17 tussle.
“Being in this atmosphere, our crowd was great tonight compared to last year at the beginning,” said Layman. “I think Tuesday [Nov. 17] is going to be a lot of fun. We’re excited to get out there and play.”
An announced crowd of 17,950, started the season with a sellout, and they saw the Terrapins pick up steam and run away, shooting 58.9 percent from the field and boasting five scorers in double figures. Melo Trimble had 14. Jared Nickens came off the bench with 11 points, many at just the right time, and Carter and Stone each had 10.
“Balance is hard to guard,” said Rasheed Sulaimon, the only starter not in double figures. “When you have guys at every position that can score, it’s hard to pinpoint how to stop a team.”
Give Sulaimon a pass on the scoring, though, in his first official game as a Terp. He certainly gave a pass with a team-high five assists to go with five points. He helped clamp down on the pesky perimeter players, the key factor in making the the Mountaineers a molehill in the second half when they shot just 25 percent (7-of-28) from the field.
“I thought in the second half we did a much better job of playing shots,” Coach Mark Turgeon said of his defense. “We took care of the ball better so they didn’t get as many open looks. We just became a little more solid defensively.”
The Terrapin defense tightened up, the Mountaineers only able to hit two of their first 12 field goal attempts in the second half. After trailing by 11 at the half, The Mount couldn’t get closer than nine, Maryland holding the Mountaineers to that 25 percent shooting, all the while building on a rebounding advantage that ballooned to 44-20 for the Terrapins.
In fact, of Mount St. Mary’s 42 missed shots, the Terps hauled down 37 of the rebounds.
After BK Ashe’s 3-pointer made it 49-40 with 15:57 to go, the Terrapins rattled off 12 of the next 13 points to lead 61-41 with 10:11 to play when Trimble scored in transition. He was 6-of-11 from the field in a modest 25 minutes, the backcourt rotation a big concern after Dion Wiley’s injury last week.
In fact, Maryland had a 25-7 edge in bench scoring and got an even better lift defensively from the likes of Dodd, Ceko, Nickens and Jaylen Brantley. “When they got in there wasn’t a let-down,” said Trimble. “They pretty much picked it up and got us rolling in the first half. Last year we couldn’t really rely on that and some of the guys on the team had to play a lot. That’s one of the things we have this year that we didn’t.“
The second half run started with a Cekovsky dunk, the big Slovakian on his way to eight points on 3-of-4 shooting. Nickens, who hit 3-of-5 3-point attempts, canned a 3-pointer to make it 54-40, and then Sulaimon hit a jumper before The Mount could get a free throw from Gregory Graves, the Mountaineers first point in four minutes.
Dodd got a big offensive rebound that turned into a Layman 3-pointer and then Trimble got his bucket to push the lead to 20.
“It was fun to watch,” said Trimble of watching more this game than last year when he averaged 33.5 minutes per contest.
The Mount would get no closer than 16 the rest of the way, the last time at 6:56 on a three-point play from Taylor Danaher to make it 67-51. Maryland would push the lead to as much as 26 points at 1:12 when Cekovsky got a dunk on a high-low entry from Dodd. Dodd was dependable and regularly inserted it seemed when the Terrapin defense needed a boost. He had six points, six rebounds, two assists and was 2-for-2 at the line and from the field.
The Mountaineers shot just 31.1 percent from the field (19-of-61) and had hung tough with some long-range fireworks early before finishing 10-of-33 from 3-point range. They had 14 points off 14 Maryland turnovers but the Terps had just six of those turnovers in the second half.
In the end, the Terrapins just had too much size, athleticism and ways to attack the Mountaineers. “Having so many weapons is nice,” said Layman. “Coach always preaches to us to share the ball and that we’ll be successful. All the big guys have been working hard to improve their game and it shows.”
Carter had eight rebounds, but Stone and Nickens each had seven. Turgeon liked what he saw from the “New Guy,” Stone. “I thought he was good. The thing about Diamond is that he has a good attitude. He knows he has a lot to learn and there are some defensive things that we could teach him throughout the game. He is going to go a long way as we move forward, just little things. “
The Terrapins, time and again pounded the ball down low to Stone and other bigs, and Turgeon already began setting the groundwork with officials. “It’s hard, it’s very physical,” he said after the game. “I’ve got big strong guys and they’re getting pushed out like 8-feet off the block. We’ll see. Hopefully as the year goes on, it’ll allow our size to be more of a factor.”
The Terrapins led 43-32 at the half but there was a feeling they let the Mountaineers off the hook, after leading by nearly twice that margin.
Maryland led 36-26 after Sulaimon penetrated a sagging man-to-man and found Dodd for a dunk. Layman hit a short bank to stretch the lead back to 12 points at 2:30, but The Mount caught fire again, Graves hitting a 3-pointer, and then Charles Glover adding another at 1:16 to cut the lead in half to 38-32, the closest The Mount had been in 12 minutes.
Dodd was fouled and hit two free throws to stop the run, and then Layman added a 3-pointer to jack the lead back up to the 11-point halftime margin. Layman had 11 first half points for the Terrapins, who shot a torrid 66.7 percent (16-24) from the field. Mount St. Mary’s shot 36.4 percent 912-33) from the field but got hot from deep, canning 7-of-19 (36.8 percent). The Mount’s last six field goals were all from 3-point range.
Layman kept the Mountaineers at a distance, and Maryland got a lift from the bench.
“He just very comfortable,” said Turgeon of Layman. “He’s comfortable with the system. He’s comfortable playing in games. He has been through it all and is very relaxed. We have a really nice team, which allows him to get more open looks. I think all phases he has really got better. He just seems really comfortable, which seniors should. He’s playing like a senior.”
Maryland had led 13-9 after Ashe scored in transition at 14:21. Turgeon went to that deep bench. With Dodd, Branley and Nickens in, the Terps took off.
Trimble hit a 3-pointer, then scored on a drive. When Nickens hit an open 3-pointer at 11:53, Maryland led 22-11, following an 8-0 run. The Terrapins were hitting shots at nearly 70 percent (11-of-16, 68.8 percent) at this juncture.
The Mount had connected on just six of the first 21 shots and Maryland’s length at both ends of the court seemed to cause quite a bit of discomfort. The Terrapins committed just one foul in the first 10 minutes of action, an example of Mount St. Mary’s problems.
The Terrapins actually had a 18-3 run and led 32-14 at 6:39 when Carter hit a jumper, but the Mountaineers started climbing back with some long-range firepower.
“I think it was 32-14, and I bragged about how well we were guarding at the time,” said Turgeon. “Then everything cut loose. I think they played loose and hit a couple. They’re playing the No. 3 team in the country with nothing to lose. They got hot and some of it was our turnovers.”
Graves hit a three, then Ashe hit two more, the second in transition at 5:21. Suddenly it was 32-23, and Turgeon wanted to talk about things like defending and shot selection. Out of the timeout, the Terps went right at a mismatch, Layman scoring easily down low, but The Mount answered with another three, and it was 34-26.
Ashe would finish with 18 points but it would take 5-of-16 shooting to get there. Will Miller added 10 points.
Early on, the Terps hit six of their first nine shots and ran out to a 13-7 lead in the first five minutes. One play perhaps typified that stretch, Carter getting out in a passing lane, making a steal and finding Sulaimon with a quick tip as Carter fell out of bounds. Sulaimon drove hard, got too far under and was under duress when he coolly dished back to Trimble for a lay-in.
“In the first half I thought we played good defense, they were just shooting well,” said Sulaimon. “We needed to make a few adjustments, getting them to take a few shots down low instead of being comfortable behind the arc. We started to trust in our help and came out stronger.”