Wells, who had a similar showing in the Terps' first road win of the year at Northwestern, took control in the second half of Maryland's trip south to Wake Forest, dominating the game and stabilizing a Maryland offense that struggled to consistently produce for much of the game. He attacked the rim with abandon, finishing with 23 points on a hyper-efficient 11-12 from the field and leading the Terps to a rare 67-57 road win over the Demon Deacons.
It wasn't the world's most convincing performance in every aspect, but given Maryland's road performances of late, any win is a sweet one, let alone one that comes by double digits. The Terps were above-average defensively and received enough offense from the likes of Wells and Logan Aronhalt to power them a victory. There were still plenty of the mistakes and errors we've come to expect - in particular an exorbitant 19 turnovers - but the difference was that, unlike in most recent road losses, there effort, intensity, and most of all composure. Maryland had to absorb a pesky Wake Forest run that might've broken them, like the one against Boston College did; instead, they answered back and held their own. Wells led the way, but it was a solid all-around performance and an encouraging improvement.
The first half was exceptionally poorly played by both sides - neither side got close to a point per possession, playing up-tempo but rarely converting on the scoreboard. There were a host of lead changes and ties, as neither team could sustain any sort of offense to pull away from the other. Led by Dez Wells, though, the Terps started to consolidate a lead late in the half, going on a 10-2 run and taking a 30-24 advantage into the break.
Within the first minute of the second half, though, Wells and Alex Len both picked up their third fouls, sending both to the bench and giving the Terps a serious challenge without their two best players on the floor. That was nothing if not an omen of what was the come: Wake Forest was, incredibly, in the bonus by the under-16, and in the double-bonus by the ten-minute mark. It was a perfect storm: Wake Forest made a point of attacking the rim and looking for contact, Maryland played sloppy defense, and the refs called a particularly tight, perhaps one-sided, whistle. Maryland was the better of the two, for the most part, but free throws are a great equalizer, especially when you make them - Wake shot 19-25 from the stripe, whereas Maryland had all of 13 attempts themselves. most of those coming in the final few minutes.
But Wells kept under control despite his foul trouble, and eventually took things over, scoring eight points in about a three minute span in the second half to help give the Terps a lead that pushed double-digits. Logan Aronhalt and Nick Faust also contributed to that run, which turned a two-point deficit at 11:30 into a ten-point lead just six minutes later. Wells slowed down after that, and Maryland with him; the Deacs would shave the lead down to four, but it would get no closer. The Terps scored the final six in the last two minutes of the game, securing their ten-point 67-57 win.
The quick whistle is a major storyline, without a doubt, and if it weren't for that the Terrapins likely would've had a much easier victory. The turnovers, though, were just as concerning, with five of them coming from Wells himself. But the Terps made up for it with execution defensively and especially on the glass, where they won the rebounding margin by 11. One of the better performers of the day, alongside the likes of Wells, Aronhalt, and Nick Faust? Pe`Shon Howard, who started at point guard and finished with eight points, four assists, and two turnovers. There's a tendency to jump on Howard's errors, but he acquitted himself well today and has made a case to continue starting down the stretch.
This was a game Maryland badly needed for confidence reasons, and they got it. The next two will really push them, and heading into those on the back of a two-game skid would've been a dangerous proposition. Things will get tougher, but this steadies the ship and hopefully provides a much-needed shot of confidence.