Terrapins trip Deacons, 67-57
Just before the start of the second half, Maryland swing player Dez Wells exchanged words with Wake Forest legend Chris Paul as Paul made his way off the court after having his number retired.
“He said to slow down,” said Wells, a Raleigh native who played on an AAU team called the Chris Paul All-Stars and said he knows the NBA standout.
“I said what ‘transition or half-court, you mean I’m going too fast.’ He said, ‘no, slow down, don’t bust the score open and let us back in it.”
Wells didn’t slow down, scoring 23 points on 11 of 12 shooting to lead the Terrapins to a 67-57 victory that ruined festivities that included Senior Day and saying an early farewell to guard C.J. Harris in addition to honoring Paul in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Joel Coliseum.
Maryland improved to 20-9 and 8-8 in the ACC while trying to keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Wake dropped to 12-16 and 5-11 while shooting 33 percent from the floor, committing 18 turnovers that helped lead to 18 Maryland fastbreak points in a ragged game in which the Terrapins committed 19 turnovers.
“We just need to play better,” Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik said as Wake lost for the 10th time in 13 games.
Wells said the Terrapins tried to treat the day as just another game.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said getting to ,500, which could keep his team in the NCAA conversation, was just as important.
“If we had any chance to finish .500 (in the league), we had to win this game,” Turgeon said. “I was leery but I used it as motivation. And our guys competed. As a competitor, you want to be in an arena that’s full with a spirited crowd on Chris Paul Day. It was pretty exciting for this group.”
Wells never took a jump shot as he scored in transition or drove to the basket in half-court sets, accounting for a good chunk of Maryland’s 46 points in the paint. “I think in recent games, I was getting away from what I do well and that is drive to the basket,” Wells said. “I was settling for jump shots, so I wanted to get back to who I am as a player.”
No one else for Maryland made more than three buckets.
“They’ve got some really talented 3-point shooters and you really need to guard the ball,” Bzdelik said. “That was a big key coming into this game, take charge of guarding the ball and we didn’t do that well enough.”
After losing while allowing Georgia Tech to shoot better than 50 percent on Wednesday, Turgeon said the Terrapins worked solely on defense while preparing for Wake.
“We just haven’t guarded recently,” Turgeon said. “We haven’t work on one thing offensively since the Georgia Tech game and it showed at times. We just worked on defense.”
The defense played well enough that Harris needed 16 shots to score 19 points. Devin Thomas added 17 but Travis McKie hit just 2 of 8 shots and scored seven points.
The Terrapins helped keep Wake in the game by fouling, resulting in Wake hitting 19 of 25 free throws.
Wake fell behind by eight early in the first half but managed to lead twice, the last time at 41-39 on Tyler Cavanaugh’s 3-pointer with 11:20 left. Maryland used a 10-1 run to go up 49-42 with 8:28 to play. Wake managed to get within four at 61-57 with under three minutes left and had a chance to draw closer. But, McKie missed a 15-footer from the wing and the Deacons didn’t score the rest of the way.
“We’ve just got to play better,” Harris said. “Coach was right. We played hard but we’ve got to shoot better and defensively we’ve got to rotate over and cover the ball better.”