Maryland men’s basketball freshman Jalen Smith didn’t have much fun in Saturday’s homecoming game against Loyola Chicago at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.
The former Mount Saint Joseph star picked up a couple of early fouls and never got into much of a flow, finishing with a season-low one point in Maryland’s 14-point win over the Ramblers.
After a day off Sunday, Smith had a little talk Monday with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon in preparation of Tuesday’s game against another Loyola, the one from Smith’s hometown.
“I was like, ‘We need more out of you,’ ” Turgeon recalled after Smith’s 20 points and eight rebounds led the Terps to a 94-71 win over the Greyhounds at Xfinity Center. “He gave it to us and I think it helped.”
Said Smith: “From that conversation, I pretty much took it that I just needed to be more involved and try to find myself throughout the game, and whatever I’m doing is helpful and productive to the team.”
Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland (9-2) with 23 points, to go along with five rebounds and five assists. Freshman point guard Eric Ayala finished with 13 points and seven assists. Freshman shooting guard Serrel Smith Jr. added 10 points.
Junior guards Andrew Kostecka and Chuck Champion led Loyola (4-7) with 18 and and 16 points, respectively.
As disappointing as his performance was Saturday — at least offensively, since he did have three blocks in just 12 minutes — Jalen Smith didn’t get think about it too much.
Asked Tuesday what went through his mind, Smith said: “Pretty much I just told myself I’m a freshman, freshmen are always going to have games like that, Darryl [Morsell] told me. He always had bad games. It’s in the past now, just forget about it and play the next one.”
The advice from his former Mount Saint Joseph and current Maryland teammate was well-taken.
Morsell had a tough afternoon Saturday, too, mostly the result of a sprained ankle he suffered in warmups that limited the sophomore guard to 12 minutes against one of last season’s Final Four teams and kept him out Tuesday night entirely.
But the 6-foot-10, 215-pound Smith looked like the McDonald’s All American he was last season, and like the future NBA lottery pick that many have predicted he will be, possibly as soon as next June.
Hitting seven of 13 shots from the field, Smith showed his versatility by making several perimeter jumpers, including a corner 3-pointer, and finished off a 19-0 run with a two-handed dunk off a neat feed from Ayala.
“We called more plays for him, to be honest. I don’t think they were guarding him on the perimeter, [saying] ‘Hey, Stix, we’re going to give you the shot’ and he made a few,” Turgeon said. “He passed up a couple I thought he should have taken.”
Said first-year Loyola coach Tavaras Hardy: “He’s a pro and we knew that coming in. We tried to see if we could get him to shoot some 3s and miss them early on. He missed the first one and their staff did a great job of encouraging him to keep shooting and giving him confidence.”
“I’m just trying to get him to be — I guess the word’s mature — every time with practice and everything,” Turgeon said. “Maybe it just took me to sit down with him and say, ‘Hey, man, you need to be more aggressive. We need you to get where we need to be by the end of the year.’ Maybe it’s all it took and he was more aggressive.”
After the Terps stretched their 18-point halftime lead to 24 early in the second half, Loyola cut its deficit twice to 10, largely the result of hitting eight of 10 3-point shots in the second half.
Turgeon called a timeout and didn’t say much to his team.
“One of the keys to the game was play Maryland basketball, don’t play to the level of the competition, and we didn’t do it except for that stretch,” Turgeon said. “I think they just got fed up with each other and the way they were playing.
“And they just turned it on. I didn't do anything . I just kind of sat over there. Bruno [Fernando] and Stix [Jalen Smith] protected the rim. We rebounded, we got out and ran. It was just our guys saying ‘enough's enough’ and we started guarding.”
A step up for Greyhounds
Hardy, who replaced G.G. Smith after last season, took some positives from Tuesday’s game, the last before the Greyhounds take a 10-day break before playing UMass-Lowell on Dec. 21.
“They’re really talented,” Hardy said of the Terps. “They’re bigger than us at every position and we knew that coming in. I wanted to see our guys fight and we did. We got within 10 in the second half and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves.
“I think we celebrated a little too aggressively. I told them we have to be stoic, and to remain cool and calm. The 19-0 run after that didn’t feel good. Our guys are growing, learning and getting better. I’m just proud of their growth.”