With a little more than six minutes left in the first half of Friday’s game against Morgan State, Terrapins men’s basketball forward Charles Mitchell caught the ball in the post. As the sophomore turned his head, he saw several Bears defenders staring at him, while forward Jake Layman stood alone near the top of the key.
Though Mitchell had an open shot for himself, he decided to rifle a pass to Layman, who calmly stepped to catch the ball and drained a 3-pointer to put the Terps ahead 32-17. It was a play that aptly encompassed the two themes of the day for the Terps: unselfish ball movement and Layman’s hot shooting.
All game long, the Terps (5-2) found open teammates as their season-high 26 team assists keyed an 89-62 victory over Morgan State (1-7) before an announced 9,517 at the Comcast Center, marking the team’s fourth straight victory after a 1-2 start.
Layman, meanwhile, was the biggest beneficiary of the Terps’ unselfishness. He poured in a career-high 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field and shot 7-of-10 from beyond the arc.
“He got into a rhythm,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “Their whole game plan was to, I think, stop penetration early. And we made shots. That really helped him do that.”
Layman wasn’t the only Terp who found success, as the team shot 62.3 percent from the field for the game and 65 percent from 3-point range. The team was balanced, too, as 10 players scored and eight tallied at least one assist. The Terps had 26 assists on 33 field goals, and their previous season-high assist total was 15, which came in a season-opening loss against No. 13 Connecticut.
Forward Evan Smotrycz tallied 19 points and shot 4-of-6 from the 3-point range for the Terps while guard Roddy Peters chipped in with a team-high six assists.
“It’s nice to see everybody hitting shots,” Smotrycz said. “We just got going.”
The Terps’ efficient ball movement started early, when Layman hit Smotrycz for an open 3-pointer less than 90 seconds into the contest. Two plays later, guard Nick Faust tossed an alley-oop for Layman, who slammed it home.
The Terps went on to record 15 assists on 17 first-half baskets, and they shot 58.6 percent from the field in the frame, helping the team enter the break with a comfortable 45-31 lead.
After posting 11 points in the first half, Layman came out of the locker room even more aggressive. He started the second half with a breakaway dunk and followed up with a pair of 3-pointers.
He hit a couple of free throws midway through the half to top his previous career high of 20 points, which he set in last season’s ACC-opening win against Virginia Tech.
“Tonight it was just kind of easy because they were leaving me wide open,” Layman said. “I think I was feeling it tonight when I had the open look.”
Still, the Terps had trouble closing out the Bears due in part to shoddy free throw shooting and troubles against 7-foot-2 center Ian Chiles in the post. The team finished 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) from the line and Chiles scored 11 second-half points and 17 in the game.
Turgeon’s team also committed 18 turnovers. And as encouraged as the third-year coach was by the Terps’ 26 assists, he was just as disgruntled with the miscues.
“We had way too many turnovers,” Turgeon said. “We did a really nice job down in the Paradise Jam of taking care of the ball, but to me, it’s focus.”
Morgan State used a 14-4 run to trim a 22-point Terps lead to 12 with less than six minutes to play. But a dunk from guard Dez Wells ended that spurt and Layman hit two more threes — one off an assist from Smotrycz, the other from Faust — to give the Terps a 20-point cushion they would not relinquish.
It was a fitting way to clinch the game, too. Layman’s smooth stroke and the Terps’ sharp passing defined the team’s most efficient offensive performance of the season, and it persisted until the result — a comfortable win five days before a showdown at No. 6 Ohio State — was decided.
“It’s something that we know is going to be there for our team,” Layman said. “When we are passing the ball and hitting the extra man it always works out well for us.”