Though he had nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal, Layman knew he had to do score more four points and take just four shots for Maryland to continuing winning. That game remains the only time the 6-foot-9 junior failed to reach double figures this season.
On Saturday night, Layman certainly had more to celebrate: his 23-point, 12-rebound performance in Maryland’s dominant, 75-59, victory over the Spartans at Xfinity Center was among his best as a Terp.
“I think I took it upon myself to be more aggressive this game, try to get to the foul line a little bit and it worked out well,” said Layman, who hit 11 of 12 free throws to go along with 5-for-8 shooting from the field, including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers.
When freshman point guard Melo Trimble went out for a breather early in the first half with Maryland about to fall behind, Layman led a 7-0 run that gave the Terps a lead they would never relinquish.
“It’s big, it just shows you how many guys can step up and take over at any point in a game,” said Layman, who broke out of a 5-for-23 shooting slump that spanned two games. “Me, Melo, Dez [Wells], pretty much our whole team can step up and score buckets in bunches.”
Layman followed on a missed drive by senior guard Richaud Pack, then hit two straight jumpers, including one of his 3-pointers. He also used a spinning jump hook, and made several drives to the rim, usually getting fouled.
Asked what the difference was between the player he saw in East Lansing, Mich., and the one he saw Saturday, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said: “I thought he was aggressive. What did he end up, 11-for-12 from the line? He did a good job on that. I didn’t think he was like that the first game.”
Izzo said that he heard Layman played more like he did Saturday earlier in the season and at times last season, compared to the game at Michigan State last month “when he played like my guys did today, to be very insulting. He wasn’t very good.
“Either through Mark [Turgeon] or himself or the other players, give him credit, you don’t play well, you go back, grab your lunch bucket and you figure out what you did wrong. The proof’s in the pudding. He got to the line. He got 12 rebounds. Whenever you get 12 rebounds and you get to the line, you’re playing more aggressive.”
It was Layman’s best performance since scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in Maryland’s win at Oklahoma State on Dec. 21. He had been averaging just a little over 10 points per game in the Big Ten, though he had been rebounding well, including a career-high 13 Wednesday against Rutgers.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Layman “took advantage of his matchups” against both senior forward Branden Dawson and freshman Javon Bess, using his quickness against Dawson and his experience against Bess.
“He was smart about it, we ran some plays for him when we thought we had good matchups,” Turgeon said. “What makes it looks better is that he finishes when those plays happen.”
What has really improved for Layman this season has been his rebounding. After averaging five rebounds as a sophomore and 5.5 as a freshman, Layman is averaging a little under seven a game and a little under nine a game in the Big Ten, behind only Dawson.
“His rebounding is pretty amazing,” Layman said.
It is part of Layman’s maturation as a college basketball player, going from a one-dimensional 3-point shooter who would tell people he played guard to one who is starting to live up to the hype he had coming out of high school, when he made the U-18 national team the summer before he started at Maryland.
“Just his confidence and watching him play is a lot of fun,” Turgeon said. “Just to watch Jake be this quiet kid for two years and come out of his shell is really great to see. That’s why you coach, to be a part of those things.”