Struggling freshman leads Terps over Tech

An injury in practice to Nick Faust gave several Maryland reserves a chance to start in the Terrapins ACC opener against Virginia Tech. Oddly enough, coach Mark Turgeon settled on the candidate who has struggled the most.

Freshman Jake Layman made the most of his surprise assignment Saturday at Comcast Center, scoring 20 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing three assists and blocking two shots to lead Maryland to a convincing 94-71 victory, its 13th straight, before a sellout crowd of 17,950.

It was a long-awaited coming out for Layman, who has struggled with his shot since coming to College Park as one of the Terps' most-heralded recruits, a standout on the under-18 national team last summer.

"I think Jake was struggling because he had such high expectations," Turgeon said. "I starting coaching him differently. He doesn't need to be screamed at and yelled at. He just needs to be coached. Today was a huge day for him."

So much for a crisis of confidence from the 6-8 swingman, who entered the game shooting 17.2 percent from beyond the arc and had missed 17 of his previous 22 field goal attempts. On Saturday he hit four of his first five 3-point attempts on his way to doubling his career high.

"It's the best feeling in the world," Layman said. "When I shot today, in the first half at least, I felt like it was going in every time."

With Faust (five minutes, zero points) limited by a sore shoulder and back spasms, Layman got the call over freshman Seth Allen and senior Logan Aronhalt. Neither player sulked. While Allen (21 points, four rebounds) scored a career-high, hitting eight of 12 shots, Aronhalt (seven points, two assists) made two of three from beyond the arc.

"Seth's just not mature enough yet to [start.] He's got to grow up. He's getting there," Turgeon said. "Shoot-around, I asked coach [Scott] Spinelli, 'I think we should start Jake. What do you think, Logan or Jake?' and he agreed. I just thought our match-ups were better."

One match-up edge that went the way of Maryland (13-1) was at the five spot, where 7-1 Alex Len (16 points, nine rebounds) snapped out of a mini-slump helping the Terps to their 13th straight victory, their longest streak since the national championship season of 2001-02. With wins over visiting Florida State (Wednesday) and at Miami (Sunday), Maryland can exceed the program record set 81 seasons ago by the Southern Conference co-champions.

Despite 28 points from ACC scoring leader Erick Green on Saturday, Virginia Tech (9-5) had little chance to prevent No. 13. Layman got off to a fast start, burying a 3-pointer on the game's first possession and a put-back on the Terps' next trip, to give Maryland the lead for good.

Later in the first half, Layman ignited a 15-2 run with back-to-back 3-pointers.

On his day, every ball Layman touched turned to gold. When he blocked a shot early in the second half, Len hustled for the loose ball and triggered a fast-break which Allen finished with a 3-pointer for a 56-38 lead.

"It was awesome," Layman said. "Hitting my first three and having the crowd go crazy, I was hyped."