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Duke Memories: Dez Wells takes over in the ACC tournament

Reminisce about Wells eating the Devils alive in the ACC tournament.


As a native New Yorker, I never had a college team to root for growing up. My father went to Boston University and my mother went to SUNY Albany, neither of whom had any lasting athletic rooting interests in their alma maters. The only thing I knew about college basketball in my formative years was that Duke was really good and that I should hate them.

Until February of 2009 when I was accepted to the University of Maryland, my entire college basketball fandom centered around rooting against Duke. You might think that already hating Duke then becoming a fan of a school that historically hated Duke would multiply my hatred, but it did the opposite. Having a singular team to root for diluted my distain for the Blue Devils.

Of course, like any Maryland fan I got extra excited for the times Duke came to Comcast. The first home Duke game my freshman year was the famous Greivis Vasquez Senior Night game, but Pete already claimed that as his memory to write about, so I won't here. Instead, I want to talk about the last Maryland-Duke game I watched as a student, one that didn't take place in Maryland or on a college campus at all.

On March 15th, 2013 Maryland matched up against the Blue Devils in the second round of the ACC tournament, playing for their NCAA lives. The Terps had beaten Duke earlier in the season (a game that Molly will discuss), but that was without arguably their best player in Ryan Kelly. No team had beaten them with Kelly in the lineup.

Enter Dez Wells.

Wells, from Raleigh, North Carolina, about an hour away from the tournament site in Greensboro, was on a mission. He started the game with a reverse dunk and a corner three, helping the Terps build a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Despite numerous runs by Duke to cut it close Wells kept scoring in transition and from the free throw line, bullying Dookies along the way. Time after time when Maryland needed him, he stepped up.

I was watching the game with my friend in his apartment. Our time as students was winding down. As seniors tend to do in the final months, there was a lot of reflecting on our college careers. Throughout the game we talked about the Gold Rush, the win in February of that year, and all the other great Maryland basketball moments of our four years.

As the clock ticked away, and the game tightened, the demons (Devils?) of my youth reemerged. I wanted this one so badly. I wanted to beat those smug, elitist, jerks. I wanted to do it one more time in the ACC tournament, an event Duke had historically dominated. I wanted it for Wells, the North Carolina boy that had been through so much to get to that point.

And it happened. Wells scored 30 points, still his career high, and did it in the most anti-Duke fashion. It wasn't from jump shots and threes, it was straight over-powering dudes. The two words my friend and I kept repeating after the game ended and we enjoyed a celebratory drink was, "Damn heroic." I know this probably wasn't among the top 10 or even top 20 greatest games in the Maryland-Duke rivalry, but for me it will always hold a very special meaning.