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As his stock rises, Maryland's Justin Jackson trying to be more consistent

COLLEGE PARK — Watching Justin Jackson go scoreless through the first half of Tuesday's loss at Penn State wasn't the only surprise surrounding the Maryland men's basketball forward.

After a recent three-game stretch during which the 6-foot-7, 225-pound freshman made 20 of 32 shots, including 10 of 14 3-pointers, it was something of a shock to see Jackson miss.

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Jackson was 0-for-4 from the field in the first half, missing two early layups and a pair of 3-pointers. He scored 14 second-half points in a 70-64 defeat, making four of seven from the field, including two of three 3-pointers.

It was a common problem for the No. 21 Terps that night in State College. Except for junior guard Melo Trimble, who scored eight of his team's first 10 points and 10 points in the first half, Jackson had plenty of company.

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Unfortunately, Trimble had a terrible second half, finishing with just one point and missing all six shot attempts. Maryland fell behind by as many as 14 points before Jackson scored his first basket.

"Things happen. I guess we just had a slow start," Jackson said before practice Friday. "We had a couple of slow starts this season, but we've just got to learn how to snap out of it. Good teams, they don't start slow."

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said that Jackson's inconsistent production, which started when he didn't take a shot in the last 15 1/2 minutes in Saturday's 73-72 loss to then-No. 23 Purdue, was a byproduct of better defense and Jackson's lack of aggression.

"They're much more aware of him when you put up numbers like that," Turgeon said Friday of Jackson, who scored a combined 50 points in recent road victories at Minnesota and Ohio State. "That's part of it.

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"Maybe not getting as many opportunities because of it, maybe not being as aggressive because of it…We want him to be aggressive throughout the game. He knows that. Not just shooting the ball, but making plays for other people."

Perhaps playing the Buckeyes on Saturday at Xfinity Center will help inspire Jackson. In a 77-71 win over Ohio State in Columbus on Jan. 31, Jackson hit his first five shots, including two 3-pointers, before finishing with 22 points.

After Jackson made his fifth straight, Buckeyes coach Thad Matta kidded the freshman as he set up on the wing in front of the Ohio State bench. Jackson said after the game that Matta joked about him not making a sixth straight shot.

Recalling the brief conversation he had with Matta, Jackson said Friday, "Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. It was surprising for him to tap me and say that to me. I'm just really mad I missed the shot."

Jackson also took it as a compliment that Matta made the comment and that teams are starting to focus on him nearly as much as they have on Trimble and, to a lesser extent, on freshman wing Kevin Huerter.

"It just shows me that my hard work is starting to pay off," Jackson said. "I feel like I've been really knocking it down. I feel real confidence in myself and as long as I play with confidence, teams are really going to have to scout me and guard me."

Jackson is averaging 11.4 points a game for the season, second behind Trimble (16.9), and a team-high 6.3 rebounds. His latest stretch of 3-point shooting has Jackson at 45.9 percent, fifth in the Big Ten.

Senior center Damonte Dodd said Friday that Jackson has to "take what the defenses give him. If they take away his shot, drive it. If they come help, just find the open players. I just think he has to be smart in what he does on the court."

An earlier version of this story said Jackson made three 3-pointers against Ohio State in his first five shots. He made two.

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