COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Maryland began the game without its best shooter and endured much of the first half without its top scorer, Dez Wells, who was being punished by coach Mark Turgeon.
To make matters worse, the Terrapins put forth a lackluster effort against lowly Abilene Christian and trailed at halftime. Fortunately for Maryland, a fantastic finish made up for an incredibly awful 26 minutes of basketball.
Jake Layman scored 14 of his 19 points during a game-ending 29-0 run that enabled the Terrapins to pull away to a lackluster 67-44 victory Wednesday night.
Layman bruised his thigh in practice two days earlier and started on the bench. He made up for lost time by making half his 14 shots and going 4 for 8 from beyond the arc.
“The guys were finding me open and we were knocking them down,” said Layman, a 6-foot-8 sharpshooter.
The Terrapins trailed for much of the first half and by 44-38 with 14:12 remaining before Layman made three 3-pointers, a driving lay-up and a three-point play. His jumper from beyond the arc with 12:24 left put Maryland in front 45-44, its first lead since 13-12.
“Jake was our freshest guy,” Turgeon said. “He hadn’t practiced. He played that way.”
Wells started but was pulled after 5 minutes and did not return until early in the second half.
“Dez and I had a miscommunication, something I didn’t like,” Turgeon said. “Dez and I have a great relationship, so I’m not concerned about it at all. But this early in the season you’ve got to set the rules.”
Wells finished with four points in 19 minutes. Charles Mitchell scored 15 points for the Terrapins (1-1), who opened with a 78-77 loss to No. 18 Connecticut last week. Facing Abilene Christian was an obvious letdown, and it showed.
“I feel like our team didn’t respect them in the first couple minutes of the game and we came out flat with no energy,” Mitchell said.
The ending made up for it.
“It was crazy,” Mitchell said. “Jake brought the momentum to our team.”
Parker Wentz and Harrison Hawkins each scored 13 for Abilene Christian (0-3), which moved to Division I this year after playing 31 years as an NCAA Division II program. Coming off losses to Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, the Wildcats are win-less after three games for the first time since 1990.
ACU staged a gritty performance before Maryland’s height, depth and talent took over. The Wildcats missed their last 18 shots while the Terrapins pulled away.
“I thought we did a good job until that stretch in the last 12 minutes,” ACU coach Joe Golding said.
A drive by Wells started the surge with a layup, and Layman scored 14 of the game’s next 16 points to put Maryland in control.
The Wildcats lost, but loved the experience. After playing at Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, this one was the topper.
“Each arena got bigger and louder,” Golding said. “And then, TV. We were scared to death. If you guys would have seen us in the bus, we were all taking pictures. Hopefully, in years to come we won’t do that. We’ll be used to it.”
Maryland trailed 28-17 late in the first half before using an 8-0 run to get back in it. Despite taking a 12-2 run into intermission, the Terrapins trailed 30-29 at halftime.
The start of the second half was more of the same. Successive 3-pointers by Hawkins and Austin Cooke made it 41-34, and a shot from beyond the arc by Hawkins provided ACU with a six-point cushion with 14 minutes left.
After that, it was all Maryland.
Abilene Christian shot 6 for 11 from 3-point range in the first half compared to 1 for 9 for the Terrapins.
The Wildcats gave Maryland fits in the early going. Wentz scored 10 points, and ACU went 4 for 8 from beyond the arc in taking a 20-13 lead with just over 12 minutes elapsed.
“It was our energy. It was just terrible,” Layman said. “There was frustration because we know we can play a lot better than that.”
Turgeon called his second timeout with 6:37 left in the half after Hawkins drove through the middle of the Maryland defense for a layup and a 22-15 advantage. The Terrapins promptly turned the ball over after returning to the court.
The margin swelled to 10 points after 15 minutes. At that point, Maryland committed 11 turnovers compared to just one for the Wildcats.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)