DURHAM N.C. — More than most of the players on the Maryland men's basketball team, junior guard Dez Wells has a sense of the game’s history as well as his own program’s place in it. On Saturday night, he left Cameron Indoor Stadium after a 40-minute game that, even in defeat, put an exclamation point on what was of the sport’s greatest rivalries.
Wells and his teammates were upset that they had lost to Duke, 69-67, but understood that it was simply part of what made many of the Terps-Blue Devils games what are now commonly called “instant classics.” Wells is confident that this one will be recalled someday, too, even though it came in what has been an otherwise forgettable Maryland season.
“This game, this rivalry, is so much better than the 13 guys that are on this team,” Wells said outside the Terps' locker room. "This goes all the way back to the '70s, when Len Elmore had almost a triple double against them or Joe Smith scored 40 points [in 1995 to win on a tip-in at the buzzer]. It was a lot more into this game than just these guys on this Maryland team.”
Asked whether he thought it might merit “instant classic” status, Wells smiled.
“I hope so,” said Wells. “I’d love to a part of something like that. Hopefully, in 10 years, this’ll be on ESPN Classic and I’ll be talking to my children, my sister and my mom about how I picked up, like, three fouls in five minutes.
“Hopefully, I’ll be looking back laughing at it, but right now, it hurts to lose. It was fun. That was so much fun. I never imagined playing against Coach K in this type of atmosphere. This is just a dream come true right now. Not the loss, but just the atmosphere and playing and having a great game like that was a dream come true for me.”
Coming off a 30-point performance against Duke in last year’s ACC tournament quarterfinals, Wells didn’t score a point for the first 27 minutes, yet finished with 17 to bring the Terps back from a nine-point deficit. Though Maryland’s first victory here since 2007 eluded his team, an appreciation of the competition wasn’t lost on Wells.
“It meant a lot playing against, in my eyes, the greatest coach of al -time,” Wells said of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "I wasn’t alive to see Adolph Rupp and James Naismith and all those coaches. Since I’ve been alive, I think he’s the greatest coach of all time. Just to play against him and compete against him with one of the greatest coaches right now, Mark Turgeon, I feel like it’s just amazing to be a part of this heritage and be a part of this tradition against Duke, and putting on the Maryland jersey is second to none.”