Terps swingman is difference in victory vs. Patriots
After wrapping up a postgame television interview, just a handful of fans serenaded Dez Wells as he ambled across the Verizon Center floor diagonally toward the Maryland locker room. With more performances like the two he turned in this week, Wells is guaranteed to attract a bit more of a crowd.
In scoring 25 points and collecting six rebounds and two steals Sunday in the BB&T Classic, the Xavier transfer supplied the star power and a major chunk of the offense in Maryland's 69-62 victory over George Mason before 10,256.
It was much like the work Wells provided Tuesday in a win at Northwestern, where he responded to derisive chants. For the week, the 6-foot-5 sophomore finished 20-for-28 from the floor and with a growing sense that he is the player the Terrapins will depend on when they need a big basket.
"I'm just trying to do whatever the team needs me to do," Wells said. "My teammates and my coaches are really, really helping me."
In the nervous opening minutes, Wells steadied Maryland (6-1) with its first eight points. Early in the second half, after George Mason grabbed the lead, Wells powered for consecutive baskets, one a three-point-play circus shot from his hip as he charged down the right side of the lane and drew contact. The flurry put the Terps up 43-39, and after that they never trailed.
"He's feeling more comfortable. Against Georgia Southern he was about as bad as he could be. He flipped a switch and got real aggressive," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "He had a great week."
Sophomores Alex Len (12 points, nine rebounds, three blocks) and Nick Faust (14 points, five rebounds, four assists) also delivered as the Terps overwhelmed another opponent on the boards 49-34 and got gritty work on defense, limiting the Patriots to 31 percent shooting from the floor and 23.5 percent from 3-point range. Turgeon was especially pleased with Faust.
"Nick had a great week," Turgeon said, "Nick isn't caught up in scoring. Nick is caught up in winning. That took a long time. We are finally there."
After falling behind by nine points early, George Mason (5-3) surged behind freshman guard Patrick Holloway (17 points), who came off the bench and hit his first five shots, including a pair from beyond the arc. When the Patriots scored the first seven points of the second half, including five by Seton Hall transfer Anali Okoloji, they grabbed their biggest lead at 37-34.
But the rest of the game was about Wells and the Terps' domination inside, which allowed them to overcome 16 missed free throws and 19 turnovers. Five of those turnovers were committed by Wells, his lone foibles on an uplifting afternoon.
"I told him he was on pace to set a record," Turgeon said. "He looked at me and said, 'For turnovers?' And I said, 'Yeah.'?"
Turgeon will forgive and forget -- as long as Wells continues to play like he did this week.