The moment had passed more than three weeks ago for Dez Wells and Maryland.
Had Wells hit one of the two shots he missed in the closing seconds of Maryland’s one-point loss to then-No. 18 Connecticut in the season opener at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., the 6-foot-5 junior guard would have been noticed on the national stage and the Terps might have been ranked.
Instead, both went into a prolonged funk.
As Monday night turned into Tuesday morning here at the Paradise Jam, Wells and the Terps seized the moment that passed in New York. Beating Providence in the championship game at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Sports and Fitness Center might not bring either he or Maryland as much attention, but it helps both to forget the slow start to the season.
It came after the Terps survived a furious second-half rally to beat the previously unbeaten Friars, 56-52, after leading by as many as 19 points with 12 1/2 minutes remaining. Wells only scored 13 points, but he made several big shots in the second half, while Providence was cutting into Maryland's lead.
“He made some big-time plays, didn’t he? This was big for Dez, he made some big-time plays down the stretch,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said as Wells and his teammates cut down one of the nets.
Asked if this was the kind of clutch performance Wells needs to do more often -- something he did at times last year, particularly in the ACC tournament win over Duke -- Turgeon said: “Jake [Layman], we couldn’t score in the low post. Evan [Smotrycz] was gone. Evan played 38 minutes last night and 19 minutes in the first half tonight. He was done. Dez was in foul trouble [in the first half], so he had fresh legs down the stretch.”
Actually, Wells said he didn’t.
“I was tired, but I pushed through it just like any other guy would have done who wants to win the game,” said Wells, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “We all wanted it together and we all did it together.”
Wells had said as he watched his teammates celebrate that he felt better for Turgeon and teammate John Auslander, a former walk-on who is a quasi-coach on the sideline, than he was for himself. He told Auslander: “We finally got one for you.”
“He’s a senior I told him, 'Before you graduate, I want to make sure you get a championship, whether it’s ACC, I don’t what kind of championship, so you’re going to have great memories about one of the years you were at Maryland,” Wells said of the little-used Auslander. “I wanted that for him. I’m happy for him and I wanted it for him. He wanted this as badly as anyone on the team. For him and Coach Turgeon, it’s really great for those guys.”
It was also great for Wells. After the game against Connecticut, Wells was benched by Turgeon for about 15 minutes in what turned out to be a deceptively tough win over Abilene Christian. Though he had scored a season-high 23 points against Oregon State, it didn’t prevent the Terps from losing.
Then came Monday night, and Tuesday morning.
This time, the moment didn’t pass for Wells and the Terps.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun