This is what happens when you advance deep into a single-elimination tournament: you inevitably encounter a solid team that is on its game.
That’s what Maryland faced in Iowa, which had earlier ended Virginia’s 19-game home winning streak and boasted the hottest player in the NIT, guard Roy Devyn Marble.
Last night at Madison Square Garden in the semifinals, the Terps were too callow, too careless with the ball and too worn down to overcome Iowa’s pressure, physical play and zone defense.
Inevitably, Maryland has turned in the postseason to Dez Wells when it gets in trouble. Wells’ creativity on offense can bail out a team when it desperately needs points.
But Wells has quietly been battling injuries. He quickly dismisses reporters’ questions about them. Last night, the sophomore was also limited by foul trouble.
“We've limped home,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “What I mean by that, Dez Wells took a lot of time off because he couldn't practice. He was really out of sync, had a bruised knee, had some problems with his ankle, hasn't practiced a lot.
“I feel sorry for Dez. Dez wants it so bad, he gets so excited. His foul trouble in the second half, he had three and then he came out and picked up four right away and then played smart and had a silly fifth foul. I thought it hurt his rhythm and just wasn't his night. Just wasn't his night. It wasn't from a lack of effort. He'll learn from it. He's got to learn from this big stage and handle it a little bit better. But (I) wouldn't trade him.”
With a subpar Wells, I thought Nick Faust seemed to be pressing to score. He made some big shots. He also took some ill-advised ones, finishing the night 5-for-14
It was a night in which the Terps could have used another scorer – Seth Allen. Allen surprised the media on press row by running in the layup line before the game with his broken shooting hand heavily wrapped.
Could Allen have played?
“In his mind, not in my mind,” Turgeon said. “He was pain free, but he couldn't shoot it. He could handle it a little bit, but if it would have been his offhand, his right hand, we probably would have played him. But it wasn't worth it.”
Final note: Because it's of so much interest to Terps fans, I felt I had to ask Turgeon last night about Alex Len's future. Here was our exchange:
Q. Now that the season is over, could you address even very briefly what your role is going to be with Alex as he determines what his future is going to be?
TURGEON: Yeah, I mean, come on. The season is ended. We were trying to win the NIT. He was great tonight on a big stage. We're going to do what's best for Alex.