By Ben Tugendstein
Maryland basketball opened up the 2015-2016 season Friday night with an 80-56 win over visiting Mount Saint Mary’s.
Coach Mark Turgeon was able to show off his new weapons, as well as improved returners, as the offense produced across the board and proved why the Terrapins were ranked third nationally heading into the season.
Maryland started the game on fire as they used their size and quickness to pound the paint en route to a 14-9 lead six minutes in. From there, the Terps played shutdown defense and fed the trio of big men, Michal Cekovsky, Diamond Stone, and Robert Carter Jr. – extending their lead to 32-14 – a run punctuated by a great play by Senior Jake Layman.
Mount Saint Mary’s guard Elijah Long held the ball at the top of the key, looking over his shoulder to get the play call from the bench. Layman pounced, knocking the ball loose and saving it to Jared Nickens who gave it back to Layman for an emphatic one handed slam – bringing the Xfinity Center to roar.
“He’s comfortable,” said Coach Turgeon of Layman, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds, “I’m really happy for him.”
Mount Saint Mary’s didn’t stop fighting however; guard BK Ashe caught fire from behind the arc and was a driving force that cut the lead to six before Maryland steadied the ship and headed into the half up 43-32.
The Terps halftime adjustments worked to a charm as they shared the ball – creating open shots and driving lanes – and ratcheted up the defense. Layman provided one more highlight reel play, finishing off a perfect pass from Jaylen Brantley for an alley oop to push the lead to 20, where it hovered for the rest of the game.
The biggest takeaway from this opening game was the balance that this year’s squad has, which is in stark comparison to last year’s team that relied so heavily on Melo Trimble and Dez Wells.
“We’re hard to guard because we have so many guys who can do things,” commented Turgeon.
Along with Layman, star recruit Diamond Stone put up 10 points and seven rebounds in his Terps debut, Trimble had 14 points, and Carter, Nickens, Cekovsky, and graduate transfer Rasheed Sulaimon all had solid contributions on both sides of the ball.
The Terps will play area foe Georgetown Tuesday night at 9 p.m. in College Park.