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January 23, 2013Minutes before Maryland's pivotal game with Boston College Tuesday night, coach Mark Turgeon told Jake Layman he was starting.
He didn't tell the long freshman forward why, though.
"I'm superstitious," admitted the coach after the game. "Jake started against Virginia Tech and we won that game, so we did that (again). It helped us."
Turgeon may keep the long freshman out there in the first five after the Terrapins gutted out a 64-59 win over Boston College. The coach lauded the 6-8 shooting guard's defense, pointed to Nick Faust's big plays down the stretch and moved forward Dez Wells to point guard for stretches in the second half as the Terrapins (15-4, 3-3) won for just the second time in the last five contests.
"Tonight we figured out how to win," said Turgeon. "We drew some things up that we had never practiced because we couldn't guard with a big lineup. We're starting to figure it out."
Boston College (9-9, 1-4) can only shake its collective head after dropping a third straight game, this the largest margin in that stretch. After starting slowly, the Eagles showed how they nearly upset ACC-leading Miami last Wednesday. They spread the floor and hit nine three-pointers (in 28 attempts) though they got just one in the last six-and-a-half minutes when they could have used a few more.
"It's tough because there are a lot more rotations," said Layman of guarding a smaller team. "It was tough to guard but we did a good job."
Offensively, the Terrapins showed progress, too. Center Alex Len had 16 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth double-double this year. Layman pumped in 15 points, 10 in the second half, providing a much-needed perimeter shot in the arm. Faust, more aggressive offensively, chipped in 11 points, seven rebounds, two steals and an assist in a tight game that had eight ties and four lead changes.
The offensive story may have been Wells' impromptu move to handling the ball and running the offense, where he had seven of his eight assists in the second half and regularly created for his teammates.
"We didn't really practice it that much but that is something we've been working on, just the high ball screen (with Wells)," said Logan Aronhalt. "Just to get another look on offense since that's what we've been struggling with. I think (Wells) just brings aggressiveness, and he can really get to the rim and finish. Having the ball in his hands, coming off the ball screen, is a really good look for us."
But with just enough offense, it was the defense that came through down the stretch.
"Sixty-four points tonight and shooting 42 percent feels like 80 percent compared to what we have been shooting," said Turgeon of Maryland's best marksmanship in five games.
Trailing by four in the final three minutes, the Eagles missed a couple of chances to get closer and when Len swept the glass and made a quick outlet to Wells, Wells turned it into a rare fastbreak hoop, slashing in for a lay-up and a 58-52 lead with 2:07 to play. It was the first basket by either team since the 5-minute mark.
The Eagles answered, though, pesky Ryan Anderson hitting two free throws. The 6-8 forward hit 7-of-14 shots, had seven rebounds and 19 points. He was 5-of-8 at the line.
Wells, essentially the point after coming off that screen so often late, drove and dished to Faust in the corner, the sophomore burying a three deep on the baseline to make it 61-54 with 1:39 remaining, what would turn out to be the Terrapins' final field goal.
Anderson scored around Len to make it a five-point game again but the Maryland defense weathered the storm. The Terrapins forced a couple of big turnovers, including a steal by Faust that pretty much sealed the deal.
"We really defended," said Turgeon. "We had good defenders on the floor. Guys believe in each other. You take away (two times we didn't box-out) and we really guarded in that stretch. It was hard for them to get a shot. Our guys believe in the defense. Pretty soon we're going to start believing in our offense."
Boston College finished shooting 35.7 percent (20-of-56), the fifth straight opponent held below 37 percent shooting. Maryland shot 42.4 percent (25-of-59) and held a 41-34 advantage in rebounds. After seven first half turnovers, the Terps had seven more but also saw BC commit 10 miscues.
The key was defending the Eagles' perimeter attack, solid defense from Layman, Pe'Shon Howard and Faust, in particular. Wells, who finished with five points and five rebounds, often had to defend in the post as Turgeon went smaller late to match up.
Earlier in the half, Maryland briefly had a nine-point lead but the Eagles battled back with an 8-4 spree. After Anderson hit a short jumper, Patrick Heckmann canned a three-pointer to make it 52-49 at 6:44. Layman scored on the break from Wells and then Wells dished to Len for another score that made it 56-49. Olivier Hanlan snuck inside and got a stickback and old-fashioned three-point play, and it was 56-52 with five minutes to play.
Hanlan had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists but Howard did a good job containing him one-on-one in the game's final minutes.
"We have a lot of confidence in our defense, we work very hard on it," said Len.
Earlier, the Terrapins hadn't led for almost five minutes when Wells, just back in the game, fed Shaquille Cleare for a lay-in that put Maryland ahead 45-43 at 9:50. Thirty-eight seconds later, in transition, Wells found Layman in the corner for a three-pointer and a five-point lead.
The surge turned into a 9-1 run when Faust scored on another drive out of a halfcourt set, and then Wells broke down the defense and fed Len for a dunk at 8:14 to make it 52-44, Maryland's biggest lead of the game to the delight of a raucous crowd of 13,941.
"I don't think he was focused on being the one scorer that he usually is for us," said Len of Wells. "He was focusing on dishing the ball and he did a great job with us. He got us the win."
The Eagles notched their first field goal in three minutes and 19 seconds as Anderson hit a short jumper at 7:57, to pull Boston College back within 52-46.
Layman's driving layup had opened the second half and Maryland squandered a chance to open a bigger lead when Len hit just one of two free throws and then Charles Mitchell went 0-for-2 at the line. More disturbingly, the Terrapins committed five fouls in the first four-and-a-half minutes, including Wells picking up his third at 18:37.
BC's Joe Rahon hit a three-pointer at 17:35 to tie the score at 32-32, and the teams traded baskets over the next five minutes until BC regained the lead, 41-38 at 12:17, when Lonnie Jackson dropped in a three-pointer.
The Terrapins were again having trouble finding the basket, tallying just one field goal (a Len dunk) over a span of just over four minutes. Faust's drive made it 41-40 at 11:32.
Hanlan answered with a drive at the other end but after a timeout, Logan Aronhalt coolly drained a baseline three to tie it back up at 43-43 with 11 minutes to play on a feed from Wells.
"The biggest play was we were down by three and he got Logan a wide open shot in the corner," said Turgeon. "We put the ball in Dez's hands and we went from down three to up eight."
Aronhalt had eight points, hitting two treys in five attempts. He sees progress in the offense, too, particularly with Layman in the lineup. "We need someone to hit big shots," he said. "You can run a terrible set or a good set but you have to have someone hitting shots. That's huge. Him making shots really opens things up for Alex."
Len hit 7-of-14 shots and Maryland had a big 34-12 edge in points in the paint. Mitchell, Cleare and James Padgett each had two points.
After a horrible start shooting the ball, the Eagles warmed up to hit six of their last 13 shots and tie the game at the half.
Boston College was just 9-of-28 from the field (32.1 percent) but five of the field goals were three-pointers (in 16 attempts). Maryland was 11-of-30 from the field (36.7 percent), hitting 4-of-10 behind the arc. Maryland led 22-18 on the boards but had seven turnovers to BC's three at the break.
The Terrapins were suddenly down five after leading much of the first half, and mired in another offensive funk when Howard drove and fed Len, who missed but stuck it back in. When Seth Allen canned a three at 1:15, the game was tied for the third time at 29-29. It was Allen's only basket in five shots.
He has scored four or less points in three of the last four games.
Allen drove and missed a lay-up with eight seconds remaining that could have put the Terps in front but he redeemed himself, hustling back to block Rahon's three-pointer with under a second left.
After trailing by seven on a couple of occasions, Boston College surged back to tie the game before Wells hit a three-pointer at 4:44 to make it 23-20. The Eagles got their first lead a couple of minutes later when Hanlan hit a three at 2:48 to put BC on top 26-24.
The Eagles got back-to-back three-pointers from Hanlan and then Jackson, Jackson's on the break at 6:33, cutting the Maryland lead to 18-17. After two Layman free throws, the Terrapins missed a couple of opportunities, first Mitchell missing a slam on the break and then after an offensive rebound, Faust missing an open three. The Eagles took advantage, Jackson's three-pointer at 5:20 knotting the score, 20-20.
Turgeon got the start he wanted, the Terrapins hitting their first two shots - Mitchell and Len inside - as the Eagles missed eight of their first nine shots. The Terrapins didn't create much distance, though, because after those first two buckets, they turned the ball over three times on the next five possessions before Layman drained a three against the sagging BC man-to-man to make it 7-2 at 16:17.
"He was excited to play Boston College," said Turgeon of Wrentham, Mass., product Layman. "I think he's more comfortable (starting) and I know that I am more comfortable with him. It gives us a shooter and an athlete. The kid is going to be a really good player. It was great to see him play with confidence. He was really good defensively. I couldn't even get him on the court earlier in the year he was so bad defensively."
When Faust scored in transition it was 16-9 at 8:24. Maryland was 7-of-15 from the field at this point but had already turned the ball over seven times.
The Terrapins had a 12-2 edge in points in the paint in the first half, Turgeon opting to start a big lineup, Layman at shooting guard, Faust at the point, along with Wells, Mitchell and Len. The strategy forced BC coach Steve Donahue to insert 7-foot Dennis Clifford in early, and get away from the Eagles' traditional four-guard attack.
Maryland's tough stretch continues Saturday at Duke, and then Wednesday at Florida State. The next home game is Feb. 2, against Wake Forest.
"I'm really proud of my team," said Turgeon. "We have had an unbelievably tough stretch. We went Sunday at Miami, Wednesday with an emotional game (NC State), noon on Saturday (at UNC) and then Tuesday. We played two that had byes going in, North Carolina and Boston College. We gutted it out."