Dez Wells put the University of Maryland’s basketball team on his back tonight and carried them to the second round of the ACC Tournament where they will face off for the third time with the Duke Blue Devils.
The Terrapins didn’t exactly put its best 40 minutes of basketball together tonight but thankfully the last 20 minutes of play were much more inspiring than the first 20. Despite shooting 50% from the field in the opening half the Terrapins found themselves in a five point hole at 35-30 as they headed into the break largely due to the turnover issue which has been their Achilles heel all year long. The only difference between this game and the last couple against UNC and UVA was the fact that the Terrapins did not let the turnover issues overwhelm them and subsequently hinder their chances at winning.
Cue Dez Wells playing the savior card as the Terps came out of the halftime break. Wells finished tonight with a game high 21 points on 7/10 from the field, including 2/2 from beyond the arc. He made plays on both ends of the floor and, as we have come to know by watching him perform this season, Wells was a wrecking ball when the Terps were in transition. Wells has an uncanny ability to use his body to effectively shield himself from the defense while allowing himself to get off good looks when he puts his head down and attacks the basket.
Another performance that must be noted from tonight belonged to none other than much debated point guard Pe’Shon Howard who finished with 10+ points in a game for the Terrapins for the first time since January of 2012. Howard, who has been starting of late for his defensive abilities more than anything, played his best game of the season tonight for Maryland when they needed it more than ever. For a player who has gone through a great amount of adversity over the course of the season this kind of effort could serve as a jumping off point for Howard as they move on in the ACC Tournament.
While Wells and Howard stood out for their play sophomore C Alex Len struggled to get find his rhythm this evening despite finishing with 11 points and, a team high, 4 assists the Ukrainian big man only brought in 5 rebounds and found himself saddled with foul trouble for the majority of the final 20 minutes of play as, at times, he had serious trouble guarding Wake Forest’s Devin Thomas in the post. What looked like a motivated and inspired Len early on fell back to the Len many fans have grown frustrated with after being caught out of position when Wake Forest forced him to guard a high screen and roll leading to a handful of Demon Deacons uncontested lay ups. The Terrapins cannot afford to have these kinds of defensive breakdowns tomorrow night against the Duke Blue Devils or they will find themselves on a plane back to Maryland before they knew what hit them.
While this wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball I have ever witnessed the Terrapins were able to get out with a win they had to have and, as a result, get to fight for their NCAA Tournament lives another day. It will take a total team effort to be the first team to take down the Blue Devils at full strength as we have all heard Ad nauseum how Duke has yet to lose with Ryan Kelly in the lineup.
However, this is why they play the games on the hardwood and not on press row. The Terrapins will be a team fighting for their postseason lives while Duke is all but locked into being a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If Maryland comes out hungrier for a victory than the Blue Devils are they will be a dangerous team to face.