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Dez Wells resumes closer role in Terps' 72-56 win over Oakland

COLLEGE PARK — Less than a minute earlier Saturday at Xfinity Center, Maryland guard Dez Wells had missed a shot near the rim, still seemingly indecisive about dunking and testing the right wrist he had fractured last month.

Then, as he and the No. 15 Terps watched as their 23-point lead over Oakland early in the second half was whittled to seven, Wells decided he needed to play as he did before he was injured.

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"I said, 'If you're going to play, man, you've got to go out there and just be aggressive," Wells said later. "That's the only way I know how to attack this game, is to attack.

"I said, 'Man, if my wrist is going to be messed up, it's going to be messed up by me going hard. Luckily, Lord willing, everything is still intact, so I'm happy about that."

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Not only did Wells come out unscathed, but so did Maryland. Two straight baskets by the 6-foot-5 senior — a vicious lob dunk in traffic with 3:43 remaining and a strong banked layup 47 seconds later — helped give the Terps needed separation en route to a 72-56 victory.

If a fifth straight victory for Maryland (12-1) helped keep the momentum going into Tuesday's Big Ten opener at Michigan State, the last few minutes by Wells helped boost the confidence of a team brimming in that regard.

"I just saw Dez, the regular Dez that we have seen and that's pretty good," said freshman point guard Melo Trimble, who led the Terps with 17 points by hitting 6 of 8 shots, including 5 of 6 3-pointers.

Junior forward Jake Layman, whose 15 points and 12 rebounds gave him his second straight double-double and second straight game with a career-high in rebounds, said Wells provided the Terps with another offensive weapon.

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"It's nice having another scorer out there, another guy that can take over a game for a two-minute span like he did," said Layman, who hit 6 of 9 shots from the field. "It's great to have him back. He's one of our leaders, he makes us feel more comfortable out on the floor."

Said Turgeon: "It was good to see. To be honest with you it takes a little pressure off Jake and Melo. Melo got more shots than he's been getting. You can't double team Melo as much as teams were. I thought the game was easier for Melo."

For most of his 22-minute stint — his first game back since fracturing the wrist in a victory over then-No. 13 Iowa State last month in Kansas City — Wells seemed to be in a bit of a struggle. He appeared to be content playing facilitator rather than finisher. He used his left hand more than normal.

It led to Wells taking just one shot and going scoreless in the first half, yet it didn't seem to matter.

As the lead dropped to single digits, Wells knew he had to take a different approach.

It would result in him scoring all of his 10 points in the second half and getting three of his team-high four assists after halftime.

"In the beginning of the second half, I was on the bench talking to video coordinator Jon Trock and he was telling me, 'You look passive…that's not your game, everybody can tell that you're favoring your wrist,'" Wells recalled.

"In my mind, I thought, 'Why am I on the court if I'm not going to look aggressive?' My game includes me facilitating and stuff like that, but just being aggressive, that's my nature as a basketball player."

Even Trimble wasn't sure it would happen in Wells' first game back.

There had been a couple of times when the lob for Wells was there, for an instant, and then quickly disappeared as Wells either didn't leap, missed a shot or in one case, freshman guard Dion Wiley continued to drive and missed.

So when Wells went toward the rim with the game on the line with a little under four minutes remaining, Trimble was uncertain what to do.

"Previous to that, he missed two layups I thought he should have dunked," Trimble said. "So I was kind of nervous throwing it up to him. He caught it and dunked it. It was pretty exciting."

It was even exciting for Wells, given what he has been through the past month. Asked if he would be content to continue in a role of sparkplug off the bench — something that seems unlikely considering the way he finished Saturday — Wells was diplomatic.

"I'm comfortable with any role I have on this team," said Wells, Maryland's leading scorer the past two seasons. "If I have to be a waterboy, I'm going to be the best waterboy in the country. Hopefully I won't have to do that, but coach Turgeon is the mastermind, so I trust his decisions."

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