Maryland’s defense got off to a strong start in one of its final nonconference games of the season, but the offense took a little longer to get going.
Jake Layman scored 17 points and went six of 15 from the floor to lead the 19th-ranked Maryland Terrapins to a 67-57 win over the South Carolina-Upstate Spartans on Dec. 13 before an announced crowd of 9,093 at the Xfinity Center in College Park. Freshman guard Melo Trimble added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Evan Smotrycz added 10 off the bench. The Terrapins held USC-Upstate scoreless for the first 3:13 of the game. The Spartans eventually got their legs under them following the early tipoff, and found success by driving inside, and then kicking the ball out for jump shots. That opened up the inside for the Spartans.
USC-Upstate took their first lead of the game at 13-12 when Michael Buchanan made a free throw with 9:04 left in the opening half. The teams then traded the lead before Ty Green of the Spartans made a layup off a steal, Buchanan followed with another layup and Fred Miller knocked down a jumper to give USC-Upstate a 21-14 lead. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon called a 30-second timeout with six minutes left before halftime as the Terps were going cold from the floor. After Calvert Hall College grad Jon Graham made a layup to give the Terps a 14-13 lead at the 8:40 mark, the Terps went without a field goal for just over five minutes, and went scoreless for 4:16. They missed 13 of their final 16 shots in the first half, and shot only 25.7 percent, including just two for 17 from the three-point line. Maryland went into the locker room trailing 28-24.
“Their zone was tough. Their offense was really good. They grind you, they run it,” Turgeon said. He went on to praise the quality of the Spartans’ players, saying they didn’t really have any weak spots, and that’s why they’re still 8-3 following the game. USC-Upstate’s 1-2-2 zone frustrated Maryland’s shooters.
“And then we couldn’t make a shot in the first half, shots that we normally make,” Turgeon said. “I think if we make a few shots, it’s maybe a little bit even different score.” Turgeon said he and his staff changed up the offense with about eight minutes left in the first half, and then talked to the players about driving to the basket more in the second half. The Spartans’ zone was less effective in the second half.
“They were really pressuring us. They were communicating; they had a lot of energy. I mean, our shots weren’t falling, but in the second half, it kind of wore down, and we started to attack the basket more and make shots,” Trimble said.
Maryland came out attacking to start the second half, drawing two fouls on USC-Upstate in the first 66 seconds. The crowd started getting involved after Jared Nickens hit a three two and a half minutes in to pull the Terps to within two at 33-31. Maryland continued to turn up the pressure when Trimble made a layup and was fouled by Buchanan, and Layman threw down a dunk after his missed jumper was rebounded by Pack. Layman then made a layup and a jumper sandwiched around a Smotrycz three to extend Maryland’s lead to 43-37 with 11:37 to play, drawing a loud ovation and forcing the Spartans to call timeout. The Terps used a 6-0 run over a roughly 90-second stretch around the midway point of the second half to stretch their lead to 49-39. After the Spartans cut that lead in half, Layman hit a three with 7:19 left to give Maryland an eight-point lead, and added another with just over a minute and a half left to end any hopes of an upset by the Spartans. Maryland shot 65 percent in the second half, including four of eight from beyond the arc. The Terps were rewarded for attacking the basket in the second half, going 13 of 17 from the free throw line.
Layman was more of a factor in the second half, scoring 16 points after making just one free throw in the first half. He said the coaches wanted the team to be more aggressive, and Layman even admitted that he felt he wasn’t aggressive enough in the first half.
“I wasn’t really looking for my shot. I kind of settled for some threes that I probably shouldn’t have taken,” Layman said, adding that in some cases he settled for quick threes and other tough shots. “And then, just to kind of get myself going, I tried to get the ball in the paint a little bit, found some guys that were open. Richaud had some great passes to me.” Layman said Maryland’s ball movement was much better in the second half.
Smotrycz, in just his third game of the season after breaking a toe in October, was praised by both Turgeon and his teammates for what his presence on the floor meant to the team.
“He basically was telling me things to do and what to say to my teammates. He was very vocal out there. He helped me get through the screens,” said Tremble when asked about the lift Smotrycz provided. Layman added that Smotrycz stretches the floor and opens things up for the rest of the team. Smotrycz says he’s still trying to get back in game shape after missing so much time with his injury.
“I got to use a little more legs. My first shot I was kind of dead, so that one was well short,” said Smotrycz, who scored five points during the crucial run midway through the second half. He says it’ll take a little more time to get where he was before the injury.
“I’m not in the best shape right now, and obviously not moving the best I can, but…I haven’t practiced in a while, and I’ve only played in like one and a half games, so it’ll take some time but it’s coming,” said Smotrycz, who said his foot was a little sore after the game.
Maryland (10-1) held USC-Upstate to 37 percent shooting from the floor, and Turgeon praised his team for how it played on defense for all 40 minutes. The Terps’ next game will be on Dec. 21 at Oklahoma State (7-1).