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Maryland's Jared Nickens breaks out of early-season shooting slump

After a slow start to the season, the sophomore had a breakout game for the Terps ahead of Tuesday's matchup with North Carolina.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Turgeon said at the beginning of the season that he'd prefer to play an "inside-out" style of basketball, and Jared Nickens is one of the players who stands to benefit most from that style.

In Maryland's victory over Cleveland State Saturday, Nickens had a career-high 16 points, partially thanks to four 3-pointers, which matched the most triples he's hit in a game in his career.

Coming into the game, Nickens was only 9 for 25 from three this season, good for 36 percent.

That's not horrible, but for Nickens, whose main role on the team is as a three-point shooter, it's not ideal. Nickens has 39 field goal attempts so far this season, and 31 of them have been threes. So if he's not hitting from deep, he's not providing much value to the team.

Last season, his freshman year, Nickens shot 39 percent from downtown, good for first on the team among players with 50 or more attempts. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that number to increase as he gets older, and the sophomore has enough talent to be one of the nation's top shooters.

Against Cleveland State, Nickens had easily his best game of the season. He had open opportunities all day, and there were even a few times where he was wide open and his teammates didn't find him.

This season, he should get more looks from deep due to Maryland's additions of big men Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone.

"Having a post presence has helped a lot," Nickens said. "It's just one more weapon to guard. Teams are either going to double, or if they don't, we're going to score, and if not, we have kick-outs for three. It's a pick-your-poison kind of thing."

That post presence was on full display against the Vikings, with Stone scoring a career-high 15 points. The freshman center's post offense is his biggest asset, and as his offensive game improves, opposing defenses will need to pay even more attention to him.

Same goes for Carter, who led the the Terps with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The transfer from Georgia Tech has been the team's second-leading scorer, and owns Maryland's best shooting percentage of anyone with more than 20 attempts. Carter expects to be double-teamed in the post, and knows he has guys who can knock it down when he dishes it out to them.

"It's amazing," Carter said. "That's one of the reasons why I'm here. That's one of the reasons our team is really good. Because if I'm drawing double teams, we're still going to make shots because we've got great shooters."

And it's not just Nickens. Rasheed Sulaimon has been lights-out from deep, shooting 50 percent, including 4-of-5 against Rhode Island.

Having Nickens as a legitimate 3-point threat adds another wrinkle to the offense, and provides some insurance in case other players go cold. Melo Trimble and Jake Layman, Maryland's two most publicized deep threats, haven't been their usual selves so far this season. Trimble's only hitting on 24 percent of his threes, while Layman's only knocking down 32 percent of his.

However, those guys are going to have to miss for a while before defenses just stop paying attention.

Maryland isn't going to need Nickens light it up from deep every game, but on nights where Trimble and Sulaimon can't get it going, Mark Turgeon is going to need his 6'7 guard.