BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Maryland guard Dez Wells and three of his teammates were late for his team’s breakfast shortly before the Terrapins game against Virginia Tech, and Maryland coach Kevin Turgeon decided not to start Wells.
The Hokies wished that Turgeon had not played him at all.
Coming off the bench for just the second time since transferring to Maryland in 2012, Wells scored 19 points to lead the Terrapins to an 80-60 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
“Late is late,” Wells said, refusing to say how late he was. “Regardless of if it’s a minute or 30 minutes. I take responsibility for what happened, and it’s time to move on.”
“I thought Dez handled it really well,” Turgeon said.
Turgeon inserted Wells into the game after only 56 seconds had elapsed, and the junior guard went on to make 6 of 9 from the floor for Maryland (13-9, 5-4 ACC), which shot 51.8 percent (29 of 56) in winning its second in a row and beating the Hokies for the fourth-straight time.
The Terps did nearly everything right, hitting 8 of 15 from beyond the 3-point arc and out-rebounding the Hokies 38-29. Maryland turned the ball over just nine times and had 15 assists, all of which left one to wonder how this team has lost nine games this season.
“We can be pretty bad,” Wells said. “(Saturday), we were really good. We’re doing a lot of things really good right now. We would have liked to have started out the year playing like this. We’ve had stretches, like when we won the Paradise Jam championship (in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, on Nov. 22-25). We’ve strung together a couple of good wins now, and we want to build off this.”
Virginia Tech (8-13, 1-8), which lost its eighth straight game, stayed with the Terrapins until the final minute of the first half. The Hokies trailed 37-35 after Will Johnston hit a 3-pointer with 1:31 left in the half. But Maryland got 3-pointers on its final two possessions — one each from Seth Allen and Jake Layman — to take a 43-35 lead at halftime.
Ben Emelogu opened the second half with a 3-pointer for the Hokies to cut the Maryland lead to 43-38. But the Terrapins answered with a 14-2 run to grab a 17-point lead and take control.
Wells scored four points in the run, including a one-handed dunk that prompted a Virginia Tech timeout with 16:06 remaining. Nick Faust’s 3-pointer capped the run and gave the Terrapins a 57-40 lead with 14:51 to go.
“I thought our execution was good, and I thought our defense was the best it’s been in a while,” Turgeon said. “I know they missed some open ones and missed some free throws, but I through we really guarded their stuff well and did a nice job on things that we talked about and carried it over from the game plan.”
The Terrapins went on to lead by as many as 23, and the Hokies never got closer than 14 the rest of the game.
Emelogu paced Virginia Tech with 21 points. The Hokies, who shot just 37 percent (20 of 54) lost their third consecutive game by at least 20 points. They played without injured starters Adam Smith and C.J. Barksdale.
“We’re competing, but we’re not competing for 40 minutes,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. “I’m not sure we have the gas in our tank to compete for 40 minutes. It’s tough and frustrating for me to look down at the bench and see three potential starters (Smith, Barksdale and freshman Malik Mueller, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA before the season) in suits looking like me. But it is what it is. That’s what we have now. We’ll keep fighting.”
Allen added 16 points for the Terrapins, and Layman and Faust had 10 each.
Maryland now heads into a four-game stretch that may very well determine its NCAA Tournament fate. The Terrapins play at North Carolina on Tuesday, and then play Florida State at home, at Virginia and at Duke.
“There’s no question the next four games are the toughest on our schedule,” Turgeon said. “Not that the last part is going to be easy, but I feel about our team. I just want our team to look like they play together and that they want to play the game and that they’re coached. That’s important to me, and I think we’re starting to play that way.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)