BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Maryland men’s basketball team began what became an 80-60 rout of Virginia Tech with an unusual starting lineup, because it didn’t feature Dez Wells. Before Saturday afternoon, Wells had started all but one game since transferring
tofrom Xavier, and his lone bench appearance came last winter against South Carolina State, when Coach Mark Turgeon was simply trying to give everyone in his 10-man rotation starting experience during a rout-heavy nonconference slate.
But when Maryland forward Jake Layman picked up a foul 56 seconds into the game, Wells hopped off the bench and bounded toward the scorer’s table. He had been engaged in the action for that brief absence, clapping hard before tip-off and barking instructions to his teammates. That Turgeon turned to Wells so soon indicated whatever caused his benching in the first place wasn’t serious.
As it turns out, it was just breakfast.
Wells and three other teammates, Turgeon said later, arrived late to the 8:30 a.m. breakfast at the team hotel. Not that it mattered. Wells logged a team-high 30 minutes, scored a team-high 19 points and backed up his game-winning effort against Miami with another dominating performance. Later, Wells didn’t want to discuss what happened Saturday morning, but was professional in his response.
“Every man has to be accountable for his actions,” he said. “I take responsibility for what happened and move on.”
Walk-on Conner Lipinski was among the other Terrapins who arrived late, so he didn’t appear during garbage time as the rout moved toward the final buzzer. Turgeon declined to name the other players, but viewed it as a teaching moment.
“Coaching is much more than winning basketball games,” he said. “And so you’ve got to teach kids lessons. Part of our guys’ problem up until this point is we don’t listen very well, so this will be a good learning experience. … I thought Dez handled it well.”
On a semi-related note, when asked how Maryland has strung together three straight solid games, in which it has appeared to implement the game plan with greater consistency than previously this season, Layman said: “Great teams listen to their coach and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re listening to Coach and we’re executing.”