Nobody needs to tell the Terps how elusive road victories can be. Thursday night's game at Boston College presented a prime opportunity for Maryland to pick up a much-needed, feel-good win and begin to gain a foothold on a season that hasn't started as many had hoped.
After losing a 12-point lead, the Terps rallied in the second half for an 88-80 victory over the Eagles at Conte Forum behind a career-high 33 points from wing Dez Wells.
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It was one of those games in which Wells, the team leader, seemed determined not to allow the Terps to lose. Wells, who often slashed to the basket, had been similarly dominant when he scored 30 points, his previous high, in an ACC tournament victory over Duke last season.
“Dez Wells kind of put us on his back, just kept getting to the rim. We talked about that — getting to the rim, getting to the rim,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said.
Turgeon said Wells was exhausted by the second half, but “when it got to be crunch time, he is such a competitor, he sucked it up and did what he had to do. I was happy for him. Dez really cares. What we’re going through has been really hard. He takes losing harder than the rest.”
After losing its first-half lead, Maryland trailed by as many as four points in the second half.
But a layup by wing Jake Layman gave Maryland a 72-70 lead, and Wells followed with a basket to extend the advantage to 74-70 with just under four minutes remaining. A jumper by Wells and tip-in by forward Jonathan Graham (Calvert Hall) pushed the lead to 80-74, and the Terps didn't trail after that.
Maryland’s reserves and coaches began to celebrate, leaping off the bench, when Wells was fouled with nine seconds left. Wells hit two free throws for his last points of the game.
“Towards the end of the game, [Wells] was unstoppable,” Layman said. “I mean, he was just hitting some crazy shots. It makes it easy on me.”
Wells said Turgeon has been telling him “to be who I am. He just said, ‘Don’t get away from who you are.’ He’s been an unbelievable mentor for me, and [an] unbelievable coach and father figure for me.”
Freshman Roddy Peters had a career-high 14 points for the Terps (6-4, 1-0 ACC).
Boston College (3-7, 0-1 ACC) was led by guard Olivier Hanlan, who scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half and converted 15 of 16 free-throw attempts.
It was the first game in Maryland's last year of conference play, before departing for the Big Ten Conference next season.
“It’s good,” Turgeon said of breaking through after two straight losses. “Food is going to taste a little bit better, [we] might get a little more sleep. It’s been a tough stretch for us. We expected more.”
Hoping to free Wells from ball-handling duties, Turgeon started Peters at point guard, the freshman's first since Nov. 22, against Marist. Peters, growing in confidence, had scored a career-high 11 points Sunday against the Colonials.
Whatever concerns Turgeon has had about Peters' inexperience have been overshadowed by his offensive talent. The coach figures Peters is simply too good not to play, particularly with Maryland's turnover struggles when playing without a natural point guard on the floor.
Against the Eagles, Peters had success driving into the lane, drawing the Eagles defense and passing the ball to the corner for open jumpers. The freshman is naturally ambidextrous, a talent he displayed when he got into the lane for a left-handed layup to push Maryland's lead to 42-33 near the end of the first half.
Peters “is playing big,” Wells said. “He’s going to be lights out once he finally really gets it. He’s going to be unbelievable.”
Nick Faust (City) came off the bench for the second straight game after starting the first eight games of the season. He often had the task of defending guard Hanlan, the ACC's fifth-leading scorer (19.2 points per game) entering the game.
Layman, who is from the Boston area, was playing in front of a group of family members and friends. He scored 13 points before an announced 3,516.
With the departure of center Alex Len to the NBA, Turgeon has often bemoaned Maryland's lack of a rim protector this season. That absence was evident early Thursday night as the Eagles scored 16 of their first 36 points in the paint, compared with just eight for the Terps. Maryland frontcourt players Evan Smotrycz and Shaquille Cleare were limited by foul trouble for much of the night.
Smotrycz fouled out with 1:57 remaining, but Terps held on.
“The only chance you have to be good in the ACC is to win a few road games,” Turgeon said. “It’s good to get one.”