The kids are more than alright, as the freshmen class showed out in every aspect today. I’ve been extremely hard on Jake Layman all season: up until today, he’d really just been a warm body who snagged a rebound or two and bricked outside shots. But man, Mark Turgeon must’ve seen something because he started Layman and I’d have to say it went pretty well.
Layman’s always had a nice stroke, and today the results finally caught up to the aesthetics (can we get #RainbowsforSunshine going?). But it was more than that, Layman was extremely active on the boards, and the fouls that he drew were because of how well he ran the floor in transition. It’ll be interesting to see how many minutes Layman gets on Wednesday with Faust presumably healthy, and to see if he can follow this breakout performance with a relevant one.
If the first half belonged to Layman, the second definitely belonged to Seth Allen, whose confidence was evident from the start. I can’t remember one bad shot that he took, because every time he took one, he squared up and stepped in. What makes me more encouraged about Allen is that this is a trend, he’s 9/19 from three in his last four games. He may not be a true point guard, but he has solidified himself as a reliable packet of instant offense off the bench.
The last guy that I really want to get to is Charles Mitchell, who reinforced his placement as a starter with another solid performance today. He didn’t get a ton of minutes, but early on Mitchell was dominating the boards and showed off some surprising post moves. Obviously, a smart bet is that Layman and Allen may have made their biggest impact of the season in this game. But even a competent Layman adds to Maryland’s already outstanding depth, and Allen and Mitchell appear to be here to stay.
The compliment sandwich
A John Wooden staple, I’m sure Mark Turgeon would appreciate a little bit of criticism in between lauding an outstanding Terrapin performance. I really only have two criticisms: unsatisfactory ball screen defense, and not enough work on the defensive boards. The way that VA Tech was able to stay close in the first half was really just by setting high screens, and either feeding the post or making an extra pass to an open shooter on the wing. Maryland switched on literally EVERYTHING, which isn’t a damning offense in itself, but the rotations were slow (particularly from Len), and the defense was as bad as the offense was good for quite a while. Tech also had an absurd 16 offensive boards today, which is just unacceptable for a Maryland team with so much talent and depth on the inside.
Dishing it out
The key to any good offense is ball movement, and that was on full display on both ends this afternoon. Until the Hokies started pressing and forcing turnovers en masse, the Terps did what they’ve done all season: they played unselfish basketball, routinely made the extra pass, and had plenty of uncontested shooters all over the floor. Virginia Tech on the other hand looked a lot like what Maryland did last year, partially out of necessity. Because of the ineptitude of their tertiary scorers (Jarell Eddie and Robert Brown were a combined 6/27), it became a hell of a one-man show with Erick Green. But as most of the players on this Maryland can tell you, one guy can only get you so far, especially when the ball movement stagnates as it did with the Hokies (7 assists, 11 turnovers).
Can Maryland shoot now?
Maybe. In their last 7 games, the Terps are shooting 39% as a team from three. That number would be good for 26th in the country over the course of the season. If Layman can provide a consistent third threat, Allen and Logan Aronhalt have firmly established themselves as good and outstanding respectively. As nice as those numbers are, I’m actually much more interested in the success from the stripe (Maryland shouldn’t be an outside shooting team, considering their best players are slashers or bigs). After shooting 66% from the line in their first 8 games, the free throw shooting has taken a noticeable uptick to 76% in the last 6 contests. This is a HUGE deal; three pointers can get you a lead but free throws will definitely keep it, and if Maryland can keep their team free throw percentage above 70%, they’ll be able to sustain a late rally just like they did today.