COLLEGE PARK — Little went right for 19th-ranked Maryland during the first half and early in the second half Saturday against USC Upstate, particularly for junior forward Jake Layman and freshman point guard Melo Trimble.
Layman missed all five shots he took from the field in the opening half and score just one point. Trimble wasn't much better, hitting 1 of 4 shots and having little to show on the halftime stat sheet aside from seven rebounds.
But nearly everything went Maryland's way over the last 17 minutes at Xfinity Center, particularly for Layman and Trimble, as well as for senior forward Evan Smotrycz.
Together, they led the Terps back from a seven-point deficit early in the second half to a tighter-than-it-looked 67-57 victory. Layman finished with a game-high 17 points, Trimble had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Smotrycz added 10 off the bench.
It helped Maryland (10-1) avoid an upset by USC Upstate (8-3), which beat Georgia Tech Monday in Atlanta.
It also gave the Terps, who have won three straight and five of six since senior guard Dez Wells fractured his right wrist, a good feeling going into an eight-day break for finals before their next game, Dec. 21 at Oklahoma State.
"That was a really good team we played," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "Their zone was tough, their offense was really good, they grind you, they run it, they have really good players, they don't have any weak spots in their team … and then we really couldn't make a shot in the first half."
The Terps were lucky to trail by only four points at half, 28-24, while shooting nine of 35 from the field and 2 of 16 on 3-point shots. As it has for much of this turnaround season, defense kept the Terps close until they were able to get a sense of offensive rhythm.
It came early in the second half. Trailing 33-26, the Terps went on a 17-4 run to take a lead they never relinquished against a team they could not quite put away. After Maryland stretched its lead to 10 points, 49-39, USC Upstate cut its deficit to four, 56-52, with a little under four minutes to play.
When Spartans senior guard Fred Miller (13 points) banked in a 3-pointer to make it 61-57 with 1:57 to play, Layman answered with a 3-pointer of his own and Trimble finished off the game by making 3 of 4 free throws. Trimble, who leads the Big Ten in free throws made (78) hit 8 of 9 for the game.
"We were off in the first half, we were running our offense, we just didn't make our shots, it made it tougher, it made us start driving the ball and getting stops on the defensive side," said Trimble, whose driving three-point play to cut Maryland's deficit to one early in the second half seemed to set the tone.
Trimble, who had 12 rebounds and became the first Terp to get a double-double this season, smiled when asked how that happened.
"The ball just kept landing in my way," Trimble said. "The bigs kept boxing out and they kept their men off the glass and I kept going in to get the rebound."
Turgeon said after the game he didn't say anything in particular to Layman, who had a big second half for the second time in a week. He scored 18 points after scoring just three in the first half last Saturday against Winthrop.
It marked Layman's 11th straight game this season in double figures.
"I don't know if I directly went at Jake, but I pointed at this guy and said, 'He's going to make his next one' and I pointed at this guy and said, 'He's going to make his next one,'" Turgeon recalled of his halftime talk. "Just try to give them confidence because their heads were a little down at halftime."
Layman said the combination of a rare 11 a.m. tip-off and a tenacious opponent who stayed in a zone the entire game made it tough.
"We're not used to playing this early and it's definitely different getting up at 6:35 and coming in for breakfast at 7:30," Layman said. "Just to add the zone on it, kind of made it, I would say lazy for us to start the game out. I thought our defense throughout the whole game was fantastic, that's what carried us for the win."
As big a lift as Layman gave the Terps by hitting 6 of 10 after halftime, an even more important — and surprising — contribution came from Smotrycz. The 6-9, 235-pound forward, who sat out the last three games after re-injuring the left foot he broke in October, hit a 3-pointer and a drive during Maryland's big run.
"I thought Evan ... was really good," said Turgeon, who wasn't certain Smotrycz was going to play until after warmups on Saturday. "He's a smart player, he finds holes, he got to the rim, I thought he defended really well, he communicated well. It was good for him."
The Terps also avoided being part of a strange streak of upsets. First-year Big Ten official Tyler Ford, who was reffing his 18th Division I game, had also officiated last Saturday's upset at Michigan by New Jersey Institute of Technology and Nebraska's home loss to Incarnate Word on Monday.
When a reporter informed Smotrycz of Ford's presence at the two earlier upsets, he laughed.
"Good thing you didn't tell us before," Smotrycz said.