ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - Sophomore forward Jake Layman continued his torrid scoring pace and poured in a game-high16 points as Maryland (2-2) defeated Marist, 68-43, in the opening round of the Paradise Jam tournament.
Maryland had key performances from starting sophomore center Shaquille Cleare, who added a season-high eight points and a received a spark off the bench from junior Varun Ram, who played a career-high 19 minutes.
Head coach Mark Turgeon, who was disappointed with the Terps’ defensive performance in a 90-83 loss to Oregon State last Sunday, praised his team’s overall effort against Marist after they limited the Red Foxes to just a 26 percent clip from the field.
“We played really well defensively,” Turgeon said. “Even though we had spurts where we did not score offensively, I liked our effort and knew if we continued to guard like that we did, we could overcome our struggles offensively because of the way we played on defense.”
Maryland led 26-20 at halftime as Layman led the Terps with 10 points. Turgeon acknowledged that he thought the Terps could struggle offensively and while it was apparent in the first half, Maryland looked like a more confident team in the second half in which they connected on 15-of-28 field goals attempts (53.6%).
The Terps opened the second half on a blistering 10-0 run behind the play of junior Dez Wells, who scored seven points on a pair of driving layups and a three-point shot. Wells also tossed a picturesque alley-hoop to Cleare on Maryland’s first possession to open up the scoring.
“That helped me get going,” said Cleare, who spent most of the past summer sidelined with back soreness. “I am now starting to feel better and I am playing with some more confidence.”
With Cleare having a strong inside presence, Layman connected on one of his four three-pointers to lift the Terps to a 52-30 lead with a little more than eight minutes remaining. After the game Layman, who leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg), deflected any praise his way and credited his teammates for helping him finish with a strong second half showing,
“They kept encouraging me to shoot,” Layman said. “My teammates gave me the confidence that I needed. I think that I can be a more consistent shooter, but this was a good win for us because everyone got involved and play a big role.”
That included Ram, a junior who originally joined the Terps as a walk-on last season. With the sudden injury prior to the start of the season to guard Seth Allen (fractured left foot), Turgeon has emphasized the importance of building depth. Ram has answered the call throughout the first four games for the Terps and his coaches and teammates have taken notice.”
“He had a couple steals out there, some loose balls he came up with, some scrum plays he’s right in the middle of it,” Turgeon said. “I thought Varun was terrific. I really did. We need him. We’ve got to build depth. Varun’s going to be a part of that depth…”
When asked about the strong following and support the 5-9 junior is receiving from the student body on the College Park campus, including the chants of MVP he received from the strong showing of Maryland faithful attending tonight’s game, Ram laughed and said while flashing a huge grin: "MVP? That’s funny. But I didn’t hear it.”
Maryland will next face Northern Iowa on Sun., Nov. 24 at 7:00 p.m. EST. (CBS Sports Network). Northern Iowa defeated Loyola Marymount, 90-81.
Notes: Sophomore Charles Mitchell finished with 12 points and connected on five-of-six field goal attempts…Mitchell and Layman tied for the team lead with eight rebounds…Turgeon quipped that Cleare may have played his best game because the team returned to the Islands. Cleare is a native of Andros Bahamas…Maryland traveled to the Bahamas for its Summer tour this past August and Layman averaged 21.3 points over the course of three games (all wins) on the trip… Entering tonight’s game, the Terps allowed their first three opponents to average 70.7 points per game but limited Marist to just 43 points…Maryland has a scheduled day off on Saturday and will enjoy a catamaran tour and snorkeling trip.