With about six minutes left against Bucknell and the score tied at 68, Maryland men's basketball forward Justin Jackson rose for his 10th 3-point attempt of the season.
He held his shooting arm in the air after his release and gave a simple nod in celebration when the shot fell through. His reaction to his first converted triple of the season was less exuberant than reassured.
It was Jackson's biggest play of a sophomore campaign in which his teammates have overshadowed him to this point. Though Jackson followed a poor offensive performance against Butler with a quiet start against the Bison, he had some key moments down the stretch that coach Mark Turgeon hopes will jump-start the Toronto native's season.
"It was good to see Justin Jackson … make some plays, finally," Turgeon said. "He's been in a little bit of a slump and he made some big plays."
After Jackson's four-point, four-shot performance against Butler, Turgeon said the Terps would need more from him to achieve their goals this season. Jackson participated in the 2017 NBA Draft Combine after being the team's second-leading scorer last season. With guard Melo Trimble's departure, Jackson seemed a natural fit to take a significant step forward this season.
For the first 26 minutes against Bucknell on Saturday, the same underwhelming Jackson from Wednesday was on the court. He shot more, entering halftime with five attempts, but couldn't put up any points.
Before the game, though, Turgeon had reassured Jackson that even if his offensive issues persisted, his other contributions still helped the team.
So, despite his struggles to score early, Jackson's defense and rebounding never wavered. His 10 rebounds against Bucknell means he's finished with double-digit boards in three of the first four games.
"He was sitting on the bench," Turgeon said, "And I just told him, 'Justin, you have to go. Just do the best you can and go as hard as you can and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.'"
Turgeon said the success Jackson and guard Kevin Huerter had as freshmen have led people to expect perfection from them. They've had inconsistent starts, but Turgeon said both will "find their groove," and Jackson took some steps toward that late against the Bison.
There was a little more than 13 minutes remaining when Jackson scored his first points of the night, cutting to the basket and finishing an easy dunk on a dish from guard Anthony Cowan.
Then, after Bucknell responded to Jackson's 3-pointer with a bucket to pull within one point, Jackson collected his own miss under the rim and drained the quick putback for his seventh and final points of the game.
"He looked like Justin on those plays," Turgeon said. "So [I'm] happy for him. Hopefully moving forward he'll play with a bit more confidence."