As Wednesday evening’s game vs. Miami gradually turned into the Dez Wells Show, the Maryland men’s basketball team showed a welcomed awareness that was arguably nonexistent earlier in the season. “The thing was,” Coach Mark Turgeon said, “we recognized that Dez was hot.”
Whereas streaky scoring was once met by either a quick substitution from Turgeon or a certain selfishness among fellow Terrapins who, in Turgeon’s words, said, “I’m going to go get mine,” the other players backed away and let Wells go to work. The result? Twenty-one points, all after halftime, and the game-winning three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left.
“We recognized that Dez was hot and we kept going to him,” Turgeon said. “That’s really what’s important in the whole scheme of things. Dez was tremendous.”
Two-point jumpers are, by and large, statistically the worst shot in basketball. Three-pointers, taken at only a slightly greater distance, offer the opportunity for a bigger scoring reward, while close-range attempts at the rim bring higher-percentage looks. That said, Wells has been excellent from the mid-range all year, shooting 44.0 percent from there according to Hoop-Math.com.
Since Wells is so dangerous attacking the basket, he can break down defenders and pull up around the foul-line for a jumper that, at times, is un-guardable.
“I don’t take a lot of shots, so the shots that I do take, I try to make them high-percentage shots,” he said. “Just want to be an efficient scorer for my team and an efficient leader fo my team. With that said, I can’t take bad shots and do things that will put my team in a detrimental situation.”
When fouls sent Wells to the bench in the first half, he still remained engaged, often barking instructions at teammates during plays and rivaling John Auslander for the title of “Who can stand up more?”
“Regardless of whether I’m in foul trouble or whether I’m doing good in the game, I’m always going to help my team out because it’s never about me,” Wells said. “I want to help my team win. My team still needs me to support them like I need them to support me. I just want to give our what I expect in return.”
>> Roddy Peters, on the other hand, has taken 39 jumpers this season and made eight, though Turgeon predicted the freshman’s game might start expanding to include a running floater, something the Terps have been working on for the past several weeks.
“He’s playing with confidence,” Turgeon said. “We’ve been working on the floater with him a lot. It takes time. Doing this a long time, you can start making them in practice because we’ve been working on it for six weeks. Three weeks for him to start doing it in practice, another two weeks for him to do it in the games. It should carry over on the rest of the year.”
Still, Peters’s opportunity have been minimal since Seth Allen entered the starting lineup and Turgeon found it difficult to allocate minutes among both. Over the past four games, Peters has played just 36 minutes, a total Allen nearly matched against Pittsburgh (35 minutes) alone.
“I think he’d play more if he just got a little bit better defensively and he knows that,” Turgeon said of Allen. “Offensively he really helped us.”
>> Relegated to the bench in favor of Jon Graham on Wednesday night, Shaq Cleare played four minutes, took zero shots and grabbed one defensive rebound. An earlier version of the sophomore center might have sulked on the bench. Turgeon said this wasn’t the case anymore.
“He actually took it really well,” Turgeon said. “He’s matured. Shaq’s matured. He understands. He knows his time will come and he knows every game’s different, but he also felt good because when he was in he played well. Shaq’s old enough to know now that it’s really about winning, and so he was happy.”
Turgeon added that Cleare might see more minutes versus Virginia Tech, which unlike Miami rotates more offensive-minded big men like 6-feet-10 Joey van Zegeren, 6-feet-8 C.J. Barksdale and 6-feet-9 Cadarian Raines, all of whom average between five and nine points per game, though Barksdale has been hampered by a groin strain of late.
It seems, though, that with the frontcourt’s widespread struggles this season, Turgeon is content figuring things out on a game-by-game basis. Cleare, for instance, played six minutes at North Carolina State, then 19 versus Pittsburgh before his time nose-dived versus the Hurricanes.
>> With 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting (3 of 4 three-pointers), four assists, zero turnovers and a newfound commitment to ball-screen defense, Turgeon said forward Evan Smotrycz had his best game at Maryland. He also praised Allen, who over the past two games has eight assists and three turnovers.
>> Maryland announced a general public sellout for its Feb. 24 matchup at Comcast Center against Syracuse. It is the program’s first general public sellout of the season, though student tickets are still available.