His eyes scanned the box score and searched for the turnover column, and when Dez Wells found the number he needed, he seemed perfectly satisfied. “How many turnovers did I have today,” Maryland’s junior guard said during his postgame interview session. “Two? It’s good. I think I’ve gotten a lot better.”
Seth Allen’s broken foot has required Wells to take over the starting point guard role, an action independent of an ultimately like-minded Coach Mark Turgeon. He assumed the spotlight at a much-maligned position, one week before the season opener against Connecticut. And during the team’s 84-39 abusing of Catholic University on Sunday afternoon at Comcast Center, Wells debuted as the Terrapins’ new starting floor general.
His numbers were modest, if not efficient. Wells played 24 minutes, scored seven points on 3 of 4 shooting, grabbed four rebounds, dished three assists and, as he soon discovered, committed a pair of turnovers. But how much can Maryland reasonably glean from a 45-point win over a Division III team, particularly one that sent two 5-11 guards to defend Wells?
“There’s no question there’s an adjustment,” Turgeon said. “He was playing at an unbelievably high level, and we moved him after the Villanova scrimmage to the point, so it’s changed things for him. With that said, as we continue to add things to our offense, he’ll be in a position to do more things. We need Dez to shoot more than four shots a game to be successful, or drive the ball more. But he’s trying to run the team. He’s been an unbelievable leader and communicator for us.”
Wells began his afternoon with a giveaway on the first possession, a poor post-entry pass to center Shaquille Cleare. But after the Cardinals committed a turnover on the other end, Wells bulldozed into the lane and hit a nifty runner. Foul trouble hampered him throughout the game, and his four field-goal attempts would have been a season-low last winter, but Maryland didn’t need much from Wells. It could afford an adjustment period.
By the time Wells sent skyward an alley-oop pass to Jake Layman (game-high 23 points) that the sophomore promptly dunked, he looked perfectly comfortable running the offense, which Layman later said had been whittled down to three basic plays for simplicity’s sake.
“It’s all new to me,” Wells said. “But yeah, an open court is really good. It’s fun getting up and down the floor, but the tough thing and the thing I’ve learned is when to pull the ball out in the heat of the situation, when to just pull back and know when we need to run a play.”
Faust embraces defensive role
Junior Nick Faust finished second on Maryland with 14 points, but stood out to Turgeon more for his defensive presence. Once a high-risk, high-reward volume shooter with little form but much confidence, Faust spent the offseason embracing Turgeon’s challenge that he become the team’s best perimeter defender.
So he guarded Steve Limberiou, Catholic’s biggest offensive weapon, and held the forward to 3 of 12 shooting.
“Nick was a whole different kid wasn’t he?” Turgeon said “He shot open shots, he passed the ball to open guys, and he just guarded his tail off. That’s a sign of maturity with our team. There were a lot of really good things that happened.”
Smotrycz eases into game life at Maryland
No longer sitting out per NCAA transfer rules, Evan Smotrycz took advantage of an undersized Catholic lineup to shoot 7 of 8 from the line and finish with 11 points.
“ Evan’s a smart player, so he recognized he had mismatches, so he was able to go inside a little more,” Turgeon said.
Known more for his outside shooting and versatile weaponry as a “stretch four,” Smotrycz missed his only three-point attempt during 24 minutes of action. But as the opposition gets stronger and games get tougher, Maryland will need the junior wing to get hot from deep.
“Regardless of what lineup we put on the court, our guys are going to be able to score the ball,” Wells said. “We worked really hard in the offseason. Jake has, Evan has. It was good to see Evan out there … He was aggressive, attacking the basket, it was great to see him get his feet wet again.”
>> Many of Charles Mitchell’s six offensive rebounds (11 total) came off his own misses after shooting just 4 for 10 from the field, but he displayed a more lean physique on several twisting, acrobatic layups. His classmate and fellow big man Cleare struggled with two points, four rebounds and three fouls in 20 minutes.
>> More on him later this week, and granted it was against a team without any player taller than 6-8, but Damonte Dodd could develop into much more than a “high-energy guy” for Maryland this season. He snatched eight rebounds and blocked two shots in 11 minutes.
>> Jon Graham spent the game in shorts and a t-shirt watching from the end of the Maryland bench. The Penn State transfer still awaits word on his NCAA waiver. Remember, Wells wasn’t granted eligibility until three days before the opener last season, and missed the exhibition against Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
>> Assistant coach Dalonte Hill’s absence continues. He was not present at Comcast Center, so Scott Spinelli and Bino Ranson were the only two assistants announced.
>> Walk-on Jake Susskind was the only Maryland player not to score last season, but he sank two layups in garbage time.