After the Maryland men’s basketball team was given a harsh dose of reality on Wednesday night against Ohio State, one important fact came to the forefront for the Terrapins.
With forward Jake Layman having a not-so-hot offensive performance, guard Dez Wells stepped into the spotlight and kept Maryland from getting blown up by an even larger margin.
After having a less-than-stellar first half in Columbus, Wells took control in the second half as he ended up scoring 19 points (8-of-17 shooting) and grabbed three rebounds in 31 minutes for the Terps.
The former Xavier guard picked up his play in the second half, primarily due to his aggressiveness. In the opening half, Wells settled for outside shots and wasn’t playing to his strengths. However, in the second stanza, he attacked the rim and was able to finish strong. Obviously, Wells is at his very best when he gets close to the basket and displays his pure athleticism in doing so.
We know Wells is talented, but why is he the most important player for Maryland?
For starters, when the Terps are struggling offensively, few players have that ability to get to the rim and finish. Guard Nick Faust has that ability, but as we’ve seen so far this season, he has a tendency to play a bit out of control and take questionable shots. Layman is a guy who excels on the perimeter and doesn’t put the ball on the floor nearly as much as he should. Guard Roddy Peters can get to the basket, but isn’t nearly as effective as Wells because he doesn’t have a strong left hand by he goes to the rim. That will get better over the course of his career and Peters could be fantastic in getting to the rim by the time he’s a junior or senior at Maryland.
Wells has that fearless attitude that you love to see in a basketball player. As everyone has clearly seen, he doesn’t shy away from the limelight in big games. The Terps have had a somewhat tough schedule early on this season, but Wells has scored in double figures in all but two games. His season-high came against Oregon State, where he scored 23 points and grabbed five rebounds in a losing effort. Rewind to last season and with Maryland’s postseason hopes hanging in the balance, Wells shredded Duke in the ACC tournament to the tune of 30 points, six rebounds, and three assists to prolong the hope for an NCAA tournament bid. The Terps ultimately lost the next game to North Carolina, but arguably wouldn’t have been in that position if it wasn’t for Wells being eligible last season.
The biggest factor that establishes Wells as Maryland’s most important piece is the fact that he isn’t one-dimensional. While he can be a very good shooter and make a living with his mid-range game, the North Carolina native can drive to the rim when all else fails. His size allows him to knife his way to the basket and absorb contact. Simply put, Wells is a pure athlete that is extremely hard for opposing teams to slow down, let alone stop completely.
Maryland’s true strength is out on the perimeter, but that option isn’t always there depending on the opponent. When it’s not, several players like Faust and Layman play a bit out of control. This is why Wells is so important and can thrive. He can use his quickness to get into the lane and make things happen. Going forward, Maryland has come to expect this type of play from Wells and he has shown over the course of his short Maryland career, that he can be the most important piece on the court for the Terps.