COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland senior Jake Layman became entangled with Michigan State guard Eron Harris early in the first half of Saturday's Big Ten tournament semifinal game in Indianapolis.
The two turned toward each other and exchanged words. National Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine came over to the area in defense of his teammate. Layman jawed with him as well.
Harris and Layman were both given technical fouls, setting the tone for what would turn out to be a rock fight of a game -- and a game Maryland had an opportunity to win before ultimately falling, 64-61.
"This is it so, you know, I want to have no regrets going forward," Layman said of the exchange. "I want to go out there and play as hard as I can and make sure these guys are focused for every game."
It seems like the story about Layman turning a corner and being more assertive and aggressive has been written a dozen times throughout his Maryland career. His game has undoubtedly evolved over his four-year career, coming to College Park as a specialist, head coach Mark Turgeon says, and leaving as a basketball player.
But the fight he showed on Saturday is something new entirely. It has the feel of a senior who has pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table, knowing that every game from here forward could be his last.
"I think Jake showed the other day in the Michigan State game he doesn't want his career to end," Turgeon said. "The way he competed, even got a technical for getting physical which you wouldn't think Jake would do.
"He'll be important."
Just how critical has Layman been down the stretch and how critical could he be in the NCAA tournament? Look at this comparison, compiled by CSN statistician Rich Goldberg.
Last 6 games Season averages
Points 15.5 11.3
FG Pct 60.3 (32/53) 50.6
3-Pt FG Pct 60.7 (17/28) 41.1
Rebounds 4.3 (26) 5.3
Those numbers don't even take into account what he does on the other end of the floor, where he has become the team's best perimeter defender and the key to its 1-3-1 press.
Yes, Melo Trimble needs to get on track and the team will likely ultimately go the way he goes. But do not discount Layman's importance, either.
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