COLLEGE PARK--It took just 86 seconds for a 10-point Maryland lead to evaporate in the waning minutes of Wednesday night’s game against Miami at Comcast Center.
The furious efforts of junior guard Dez Wells, who had scored 18 points in the second half up to that juncture--0:19 to play in a 71-71 ball game--had been lost in the confusion of an improbable Hurricanes comeback that now had Maryland teetering on the edge, on one side a much-needed victory and on the other a record in league play that would be deeper below .500 and another crushing loss at home.
Wells had done it nearly all by himself up to that point and he wasn’t about to let that be changed by convention or--what’s that called?--a game plan. The ball was inbounded to him with 22 seconds to play and Maryland had two timeouts remaining.
“Coach Turgeon wanted to call a timeout and I waved him off like, ‘No, I’m going to win the game for us,’” Wells recalled of his thinking during that stretch after the game. “I just waved my hand like, ‘No, go ahead. Go ahead. I got it. I got it.’”
Junior forward Evan Smotrycz tried to set a screen for Wells as he contemplated his next move, but Wells, too, waved him off.
“I didn’t want him to bring an extra defender,” he said. “I knew I could beat my man with my first step and, you know, my first dribble. So I didn’t need any help.”
He crossed to ball between his legs from left to right, then back right to left, then back left to right before pulling up for three over the outstretched hand of his longtime friend, Miami’s Garrius Adams, and watching it splash it home to give Maryland a 74-71 lead with just over five seconds to play and ultimately hand Maryland the win on Wednesday night.
“I’d rather have Dez drive it, and he shot it and I’m glad he made it,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game.
“He had made up his mind … He was feeling good. He made some really tough shots in the second half. He really played well out there, so I was happy for him.”
In the same way that Maryland stood on the brink after a poor first half on Jan. 15 against Notre Dame before storming back to win, Wells’ shot against Miami continues to give Maryland hope that something substantive can be made of this season without it taking a turn for something much worse.
The Terrapins begin the toughest stretch of their season now, a stretch that includes dates with North Carolina and Duke on the road as a part of a larger set of four road games out of the next five overall.
Tough enough in and of itself. And it would have even been tougher with a loss on Wednesday night.