The Maryland Terrapins slim chances of making the NCAA Tournament live on for yet another day! Thanks to Mr. Dez Wells showing off in front of his home state, the Terrapins avoided a road loss and took down the Wake Forest Deacons 67-57 Saturday afternoon. Wells, playing in front of a crowd that included NBA superstar Chris Paul, went a near-perfect 11-of-12 from the field to finish the game with 23 points and 5 rebounds, at times appearing seemingly unstoppable.
So what is there to take away from this game? Not a whole lot, really. The Terrapins were playing against arguably the worst team in the ACC, and though the Deacons lost by double-digits, the game was much closer than that. What can be said about the Terrapins is that they fought through a massive amount of foul trouble to salvage a game that could have completely gone awry. Typically, when your team has 24 fouls over the course of a game, the end result is like a dropkick to the groin: you go down, and you go down hard. Shaquille Cleare had four fouls, James Padgett fouled out, Alex Len, Dez Wells, Nick Faust and Charles Mitchell each had three apiece and the Terrapins front court was shredded. But while the Terps were down, they never gave up.
At one point, Turgeon was on the verge of being rejected outright because of the foul deficit (Wake had 9 fouls to Maryland’s 19), but Maryland continued to play strong defense and attacked the Deacons to remain in contention. Dez Wells essentially put the team on his back and repeatedly drove to the basket at will to respond to whatever Wake Forest threw at him, and in doing so helped the Terrapins remain confident despite all that was going wrong in the game. With eight minutes remaining, and the Terps up 49-42, Wells scored eight of the team’s next ten points in order to keep the offense in the game. It was a performance that Maryland badly needed, and one that speaks volumes about his will to win.
Of course, it helped that Wake Forest is just a pretty bad basketball team in general. They matched Maryland turnover-for-turnover (19 for the Terps, 18 for Wake Forest), which isn’t an easy feat in it’s own right. Sloppy ballhandling from Cody Miller-McIntyre (five turnovers) and C.J. Harris (four turnovers) negated any chance they had of capitalizing on Maryland’s propensity to lose the ball. Wake Forest hit a few three pointers early, but fell in love with the long ball and finished shooting 6-of-21 from long range, essentially putting themselves out of the game with all that chucking. Maryland gobbled up all those misses, and outrebounded the Deacons 37-29.
That last part shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, because that’s what Maryland does when they are at their best. They challenge teams to make shots, and grab rebounds using their size and athleticism when they don’t. Winning the battles on the boards really, really, masks the turnover issue that plagues certain players (*cough* Dez Wells had five *cough*). Len was suffering through some foul trouble, and wasn’t particularly aggressive on the offensive end, but every time he was on the court, the game was slanted in Maryland’s favor. His ten rebounds were huge, and a pair of blocks to go along with that showed that he affected the outcome of the game in a lot of ways.
Maryland didn’t have a lot going for them this game, but they did get some solid performances from a couple players in the second half as well. Pe’Shon Howard made some big layups towards the end of the game (he finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists), and Nick Faust was a consummate glue guy to end up with 9 points and 4 rebounds. Then there was Logan Aronhalt doing Logan Aronhalt things, hitting three 3-pointers (on seven attempts) and widening the scoring margin whenever Wake Forest challenged. He was the only Terrapins to hit anything from deep (they finished 3-of-14 from long range.)
Were it not for Dez, the Terrapins would not have won. But were it not also for the collective team effort put together, with everyone chipping in in their own manner, Dez Wells points would have been a moot point. It’s what impressed me the most about the Terps; if one thing was falling apart, someone else was going to chip in and contribute. They plugged the holes in the boat as it was sailing towards a win, and that’s all you can really ask for in a team that plays as mediocre as the Terrapins do on the road. You have to be impressed sometimes by a team that, in spite of all their youth, doesn’t often give up on one another.
All of this is not to say that Wake Forest didn’t have some solid performances in the game. C.J. Harris chucked his way to 19 points on the afternoon (5-of-16 shooting) and freshman Devin Thomas had one of this better performances on the year with 17 points and 7 rebounds. Had Travis McKie actually showed up (he ended the game with 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 fouls) offensively, Maryland would have gone home with a big fat L strapped to their record. He was held in check and made uncomfortable all game, which definitely helped the Terrapins out. Had they made a few more shots, this game would have been dead even. On a day where they retired Chris Paul’s jersey and hung it up in the rafters, you expected a gutsy performance from a team that has been down on their luck. The Terrapins got it all, but it simply wasn’t enough.
What does the victory mean for Maryland moving forward? They took care of business, and continue to have a fighting chance of making it into that big, important, postseason tournament. Next Wednesday against North Carolina is as much of a must-win as any game the Terrapins have played this season for a number of reasons. They need some momentum heading into the game following UNC in Virginia (which is on the road, by the by), and must bolster that resume come season’s end. It’s winning from here on out, and doing it on the road, even against a bad team, is a good confidence boost for the Terrapins.
Well done, fellas.