Terrapins face key tests at Georgia Tech, Wake
The road woes of the Maryland basketball team have been thoroughly documented. If the Terrapins fall short of the NCAA tournament, it will be because they failed to demonstrate that they could win away from Comcast Center.
Losing on the road to quality ACC teams such as Duke, Miami and North Carolina can be excused. But perhaps the litmus test for Maryland (19-8, 7-7) comes this week with games Wednesday at Georgia Tech (14-12, 4-10) and Saturday at Wake Forest (12-14, 5-9). If the Terps can't beat teams with respective RPIs of 134 and 142, they can't make a case that they belong in the tournament.
The source of the Terps' road struggles is easy to identify. While its defense has been consistent, yielding 65.6 points in ACC games at home and 66.2 on the road, its offense has been Jekyll and Hyde. In ACC games at Comcast, the Terps average 72.4 points. On the road, they average 58.7 points per game.
|Maryland at Georgia Tech|
|When »||Wednesday, 8 p.m.|
|Where »||McCamish Pavilion,||Atlanta, Ga.|
|TV »||Ch. 20|
Seven of the 10 Terps in the rotation have much better numbers in ACC games at home than on the road. The only Terrapin who has been a demonstrably better scorer on the road has been Dez Wells, averaging 14.7 points away and 7.9 points at Comcast. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon credits the experience the 6-5 swingman gained last season at Xavier, which reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.
"He's our toughest guy physically and mentally," Turgeon said. "He's been there and done that. He played in some tough environments last year."
When the Terps have been tentative on offense on the road, Wells has filled the void. He has been their top scorer in four of the six ACC road games, hitting 34 of 64 shots (53.1 percent). In an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game at Northwestern, Wells scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting.
"Dez is usually good at getting his own shot," sophomore Nick Faust said. "He can get a rebound and push it up on the break. On offense, the ball just gravitates toward him."
Wells believes the Terps struggles on the road are a simple matter of youth. Four of the 10 rotation players are freshmen, three are sophomores and two are transfers. By way of illustration, Wells compared Maryland to the situation he was in last year at Xavier, when he and Dee Davis were the lone freshmen and the team was led by Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, who were in their fourth and third year respectively as starters in the backcourt.
"I had my inconsistencies, but the leaders of the team, they stepped up and got into me," Wells said. "I just wanted to be the best player I could be every time I stepped on the floor. I'm pretty sure my guys feel the same way. But it's really hard not having those couple guys really, really urging you to play better."