Midnight Madness returns to Cole Field House
It flicked on like a light switch, the moment when Dez Wells decided without so much as a protest from the Boston College defense that he was going to be a dominant force down the stretch in Maryland’s 88-80 victory over the Eagles on Thursday night in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Wells drove from the right wing and hop-stepped into the lane, absorbed contact, and hit a short jumper as the whistle blew to call a foul. Television caught Wells flashing a smile as teammates congratulated him and he headed to the free throw line for one more. He would convert.
That sequence gave Maryland a 70-68 lead with 5:12 to play. Wells would go on to score 10 more points in the final fives minutes, on his way to a career-high 33 and an all-important win in the team’s ACC opener.
This is what head coach Mark Turgeon had originally envisioned when he handed the reins of the offense to Wells in the wake of an injury to starting point guard Seth Allen. This is what it was supposed to look like, but hadn’t so far.
But therein lies the irony.
When Wells began every possession with the ball in his hands down the stretch, he wasn’t the point guard. He was the man in the spotlight who the defense had yet to prove it could stop. For much of the final minutes, it was a series of one-on-one games and Wells was dominating.
Put it this way: They were one-on-one games and winner kept ball. And Wells kept winning.
He didn’t have to worry about setting up an offense in those final minutes because he was the offense, scoring 22 of his 33 in the final 20 minutes. That’s what Maryland has needed, that switch to go on and all the factors to come together that would allow the dominant Wells to emerge.
The seeds were planted early for this scenario to blossom late in the second half.
Turgeon started freshman Roddy Peters at point guard, freeing Wells up off the ball where he is most effective. That got him in a groove in the first half, an infinitely more efficient and effective first 20 minutes than we’ve seen from the junior in a few games.
After that foundation was set, it was simply about daring Boston College to stop him and they were unable to do so. Blame part of it on bad defense, but give credit to Wells, too, who fought through contact to keep the train rolling on a few key possessions.
From the 6:56 mark of the second half, Maryland trailed by three points. Just 3:02 later, thanks to a string of 10 Wells points, the Terrapins led by four and would never again relinquish the lead.
Is one-on-one always going to work? Probably not, being that other teams will play better defense and watch this film to learn what Boston College was not doing. But knowing that this is an option gives Maryland the sharp edge that it lacked before.
If Wells is on the floor and proven to be capable of these offensive outbursts, defenses will need to compensate, opening up opportunities for the emerging Peters, forwards Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz, or others.
When Wells is on, it’s best to move out of his way. Maryland did on Thursday and they’re 1-0 in conference play because of it.