Midnight Madness returns to Cole Field House
COLLEGE PARK--On a short, two-day turnaround after an emotional win to open ACC play, with injury-related depth concerns in the backcourt, and with final exams on the horizon, Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic could have been a letdown loss for Maryland.
It almost was, but it wasn’t, thanks to a different hero on a different night.
On Thursday night it was junior Dez Wells, who took over in the second half on his way to a career-high 33 points and a Maryland win over Boston College.
Less than 48 hours later on Saturday, it was sophomore Jake Layman whose three-point dagger off dribble penetration and a dish from Nick Faust stopped a Florida Atlantic comeback in its tracks with 0:37 to play in a 66-62 Maryland win at Comcast Center in College Park.
“I told our guys, I said, ‘This is going to be a hard game. It’s not going to be easy.’ But I thought at times it could have got easy for us,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “I thought we could have built that thing up 12, 14, 16 points, but we didn’t do it.”
As Florida Atlantic stuck around, Maryland increasingly needed a sort of finality, someone to shut the door on a scrappy and suddenly hot-shooting team that wouldn’t go away.
Wells began the second half in a groove, but faded. Evan Smotrycz was 1-of-12 from the floor. Nick Faust was inefficient on the offensive end as a scorer and had already taken a bad shot on a possession previous.
So it had to be Layman.
“He thinks about that shot and he thinks he’s going to hit every shot,” Turgeon said of Layman’s game-sealing shot. “I’ve seen Jake make a lot of big shots and I think he made three threes in the second half … and they were all big for us.”
There was execution to it, yes, with Faust finding Layman as the shot clock ran down and ready to shoot, but it was also about versatility. In an end-of-game situation, Layman is quickly becoming equally as capable as Wells to be the go-to scorer.
“In big moments, Dez is usually our guy,” Layman said. “But in my mind I’m saying, ‘If I’m open, I know I can make this shot.’
“I knew that it was a big situation.”
It’s not that Wells won’t be the No. 1 option, but it often pays to have two. Wells can at times be unstoppable going to the rim, as he showed against Boston College, and Layman will always have the feel from the perimeter.
For an opposing defense, that makes every late-game situation more difficult to defend. Eliminate Wells off the bounce, or double Layman and force someone else to beat you?
Of course Turgeon would prefer that it not come to that, especially against a Florida Atlantic team that was an 18-point underdog on Saturday, but he’ll take a win going away.
“When our guys want to do it,” Turgeon laughed, “when their backs are against the wall, they’re pretty good at it.”