A lasting benefit from Maryland’s 84-39 victory over Division III Catholic in an exhibition game Sunday at Comcast Center might be difficult to figure given the final score, yet the takeaways were pretty clear as the Terps move toward getting ready for Friday’s regular season opener against Connecticut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Sophomore forward Jake Layman is ascending into a potential shooting star. Junior guard Dez Wells is adjusting after being moved to point guard last week. And freshman center Damonte Dodd is quickly shedding his project label.
Layman, whose short bursts as a scorer last season were often followed by longer stretches when he all but disappeared, continued what began during the team’s summer tour in the Bahamas. The 6-foot-8 forward led Maryland with 23 points — 11 in a little over two minutes in the first half when he hit four straight shots, including three 3-pointers — and single-handedly turned a relatively competitive start into a rout.
Wells, who led the Terps in scoring last season (13.1 points a game) after transferring from Xavier, took just four shots while trying to relearn a position he hadn’t played for more than a few minutes since high school. Forced into starting at point guard after sophomore Seth Allen broke his foot in practice last week, Wells finished with seven points, three assists and two turnovers.
Dodd, who spent last winter developing what had been a pretty raw game in high school at a military prep school in Virginia, had a productive 11-minute stint backing up starting center Shaquille Cleare. The 6-9 freshman from Centreville (Queen Anne’s) had four points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in a four-minute coming-out in the first half and added four more rebounds in the second half.
Maryland’s easy victory — along with another win by his beloved and still unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs — made for a pretty good afternoon for third-year coach Mark Turgeon.
“I thought we played well defensively pretty much the whole game,” Turgeon said. “Obviously we were bigger, stronger, faster at every position and it showed. When we weren’t good defensively, our athleticism took over. But we guarded, we kept guarding, our guys played hard for 40 minutes on the defensive end. … We had a lot of guys play well.”
Junior guard Nick Faust (City) scored 14 points, but impressed Turgeon more in his new role as the team’s shutdown defender. Faust forced Catholic’s top outside shooter, 6-5 junior Steve Limberiou, into a 3-for-12 shooting performance, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
Junior forward Evan Smotrycz, playing his first game since transferring from Michigan before last season, finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore forward Charles Mitchell finished with 11 rebounds — 10 in the first half — and 10 points.
Faust said the addition of Smotrycz — who came to Maryland with a reputation as a long-range shooter — as well as the evolution of Layman, makes it easier for him and others to get open shots as well. The Terps finished 9 of 19 on 3-point shots, including five of seven by Layman.
“We feel like, any given night, one of us can have over 20 just because how much the floor is spread,” Faust said. “It just depends on who the defense is locked in on. We all respect one another and try to get each other open shots.”
Having been forced to play point guard for stretches his first two years because of injuries to and inconsistencies by a few of his teammates, Faust understands the transition Wells is going through while Allen recovers from his injury and freshman point guard Roddy Peters learns to run the team’s halfcourt offense.
“This is his first game. I think he [Wells] did a pretty solid job. He handled himself well, and he got guys shots,” Faust said.
Wells admits he is still trying to figure things out at point guard.
“Me personally, physically, I feel like I can play just about any position on the floor,” Wells said. “Mentally, I just have to continue to watch film and study guys and see what they like to do and take bits and pieces from everybody’s game that I watch. I would say I was thinking a little too much when I was first starting out, but you get your second wind and the game starts to slow down for you.”
The game has slowed dramatically for Layman since last season, the first half of which was spent looking as if he might not last at Maryland. What he finally displayed in the first half of his Atlantic Coast Conference debut against Virginia Tech — when he scored 19 of his season-high 20 points — and demonstrated in a few more games down the stretch have become common for Layman.
Even shaving his Boston Red Sox playoff beard on orders from assistant coach Scott Spinelli did not take Layman out of his zone.
“I feel more comfortable and my confidence is really high right now,” Layman said. “Things are going smoothly on the court. I worked hard on a lot of things — ballhandling, improving my shot. Having that one year under my belt got me ready for this year.”
Said Turgeon: “He’s a good player. … Jake can shoot it. The thing about Jake, too, is he can also drive it. So, if they get up on him, he can drive the basketball all the way to the rim or he can pull up. He’s got the whole game, he’s really worked at it.”
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