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Overcoming slow start, forward Jake Layman and Terps take down Winthrop, 82-62

COLLEGE PARK — Jake Layman made his first 3-pointer against Winthrop late in the first half Saturday, after the junior forward had missed his first four shots from the field and the Maryland men's basketball team had worked back from an early nine-point deficit at Xfinity Center.

The junior forward remained stoic after the shot, focused on a game that Maryland led but still remained very much in doubt. The aftermath of his second 3-pointer was much different. He pumped his fist and stuck out his tongue, celebrating an 18-point second half and the punctuation mark on his team's 82-62 victory before an announced 9,345.

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Layman finished with a season-high 21 points and six rebounds, and Maryland's slow-starting play came to mirror that of its leading scorer. Coming off their first loss of the season Wednesday to No. 7 Virginia, and leading by just five at halftime, the No. 21 Terps (8-1) looked like a team still worthy of its national ranking.

"After the start of the game, I don't know if it was coming off the loss or whatever, we weren't very good," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. After the Terps "got down 13-4, we were as good as we've been all year. I thought we really defended.

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"That's a good team. Everybody is going to look at that score and say, 'Maryland should beat that team by 20.' But where we are right now, I was really proud of our guys. I thought we played at a high level. I thought we got better in a lot of phases. … It's the best we played since Iowa State."

It was not just Layman, who overcame his early shooting woes and a scary fall in the second half after a hard foul to help Maryland distance itself from a team that won at Clemson earlier this season. Winthrop (3-4) gave the Terps fits with its dynamic backcourt of 6-foot-5 senior Keon Moore (20 points) and 5-7 sophomore Keon Johnson (18), and was in the game until the last 10 minutes.

The Terps got another strong performance from freshman point guard Melo Trimble, who finished with 16 points and a season-high seven assists. Senior guard Richaud Pack also scored 16, and freshman wing Jared Nickens, who sparked the first-half comeback, added 12.

Maybe the most important, and potentially most significant, contribution came from 6-11 sophomore center Damonte Dodd. After not playing well against Virginia and getting pulled quickly Saturday following a couple of early turnovers, Dodd finished with career highs in points (nine) and rebounds (10).

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"He was huge. This was definitely his best game all year," Layman said of Dodd, who also had three blocks and two assists. "He's getting tougher and tougher for us, which he is going to have to be going down the stretch, playing against some bigger guys. He's been improving all year."

The victory helped Maryland avoid becoming the latest victim in what has become a a national trend of upsets. On Saturday, a day after visiting Yale defeated defending national champion Connecticut, No. 17 Michigan lost to New Jersey Institute of Technology in Ann Arbor.

Turgeon said the Terps will be wary of their next two opponents — North Carolina Central on Wednesday and South Carolina-Upstate on Saturday — as they were of the Eagles.

"We'll enjoy tomorrow and we know we've got a [North Carolina Central] team that played [North] Carolina to [16 points], played Cincinnati to nine points, a good basketball team coming in here Wednesday," Turgeon said. "Then we've got Upstate coming in here Saturday. They just beat Georgia Tech."

Turgeon recalled a conversation he had with USC-Upstate coach Eddie Payne in the spring.

"When I scheduled them, he told me they weren't going to be any good, so he's an old friend, so he lied to me," Turgeon said with a smile. "So we have a tough week, and we probably have the same roster all of next week [without injured senior guard Dez Wells and senior forward Evan Smotrycz]. It's good to have confidence and play well. We've got to be mentally ready whenever those games start."

Layman said the Terps learned they needed to be a little tougher, particularly inside, after Virginia dominated them in the paint. If Maryland takes anything from Saturday's game, it's that another slow start might eventually catch up with it.

"I feel it's been happening the past three or four games," Layman said. "I think that's just being more efficient at the start of the game, too. We don't want to get into those holes against better teams."

Notes: Smotrycz missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle, the same foot he broke in October. … The Terps committed just one turnover in the second half. … Former Maryland star Steve Francis attended the game.

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