By: Eric Myers
Ahead of the 7 p.m. tip off between Maryland and Loyola (Md.), forward Jalen Smith was dancing to the music playing from the speakers during warmups. The impetus behind Smith’s 6-foot-10 frame being in motion was a discussion his teammates had with him in the days leading up to the game.
“I told him he’s just got to play with more emotion,” junior guard Anthony Cowan said. “I think when he does that, he changes. This game I see him dancing in warmups, he’s having a little bit more fun… that’s the Jalen I know.”
After Smith’s rhythmic moves pregame, the freshman displayed post moves, movement in transition and a smooth delivery from the perimeter. In all, Smith set a new career-high scoring output with 20 points against Loyola (Md.).
Smith’s career-high comes three days after foul trouble rendered him largely ineffective in Maryland’s win over Loyola of Chicago in Baltimore, a homecoming for the Charm City native. Against the Ramblers, Smith played 12 minutes and scored one point, both of which represent low marks in his collegiate career.
With Saturday’s game making it two consecutive games with single-digit points, head coach Mark Turgeon also decided to meet with his young big man to discuss what he needs to see out of Smith.
“I think he was just more aggressive. We sat down Monday and talked and I was like ‘we need more out of you.’” Turgeon said.
Smith responded to Turgeon’s request for increased aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor. Smith shot the ball 13 times, including four shots from beyond the 3-point arc, which is a new career-high in shots attempted from the perimeter.
Turgeon also did his part to induce heightened aggressiveness from Smith, as he called more plays designed to get the ball to Smith when he realized that the Greyhounds weren’t respecting his ability to shoot and playing off of him.
With those extra opportunities from the outside, Smith made a 3-point shot for the third time in four games, after making just one in the team’s first seven games. The former five-star recruit also buried a couple of mid-range jump shots just inside the arc.
“From that conversation [with Turgeon], I pretty much just took it as I’ve got to be more involved and try to find myself throughout the game,” Smith said.
While Maryland came away with the win in Smith’s most recent single-digit scoring game, Maryland’s two losses thus far this season came against Virginia and Purdue, where he scored six points and seven points respectively.
Virginia and Purdue represent two of the best opponents that Smith has faced this season, with the Cavaliers playing their defensive brand of basketball and the Boilermakers being the first Big Ten road game for the freshman.
With his career-high game against Loyola (Md.), Smith has shown the ability to bounce back from his difficult games. He did so in the game after Virginia, when he scored 16 points in his Big Ten debut against Penn State.
“After the [Loyola of Chicago] game, my teammates pretty much told me that I was just playing like I wasn’t there mentally,” Smith said. “And they said just be more cheerful when the games come, so I did what they said and it just helped me mentally.”