WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Dez Wells used to play for a team named for Chris Paul. With the namesake of his old squad watching from the sideline, the Maryland guard put on quite a show.
Wells scored 23 points and the Terrapins pulled away to beat Wake Forest 67-57 on Saturday and spoil Chris Paul Day for the Demon Deacons.
Wells, a Raleigh native who played AAU ball for the Chris Paul All-Stars, was 11 of 12 from the field and finished two points shy of his career high of 25 set Dec. 2 against George Mason.
He insisted the game carried no extra meaning because Paul was in a courtside seat near the baseline, but said he had a brief chat with the Los Angeles Clippers point guard just before the second half started.
“He told me to slow down,” Wells said. “I said, ‘What, transition or half-court — what do you mean?’ And he said, ‘No, slow down … don’t bust the scoreboard on us.'”
The Terrapins (20-9, 8-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) overcame 19 turnovers and some serious foul trouble to hold the Demon Deacons (12-16, 5-11) without a field goal for the final 4½ minutes and claim their second ACC road win of the season.
“We had an attitude that we weren’t going to lose,” coach Mark Turgeon said.
C.J. Harris scored 19 points and Devin Thomas added 17 — while hitting 9 of 12 free throws — for Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons had the ball down 61-57 with 2 minutes left but couldn’t get any closer.
Travis McKie rushed an open 3 that missed and would have cut it to one. Nick Faust put Maryland up 63-57 when he got past Codi Miller-McIntyre for a jumper in the lane.
McKie — desperate to make something happen on Wake Forest’s next possession — then turned it over in the lane with about 1½ minutes left, and the Terrapins pulled away from there to claim their second win in three games while giving Wake Forest just its third ACC loss at home.
“We took a couple of quick shots when we were in the double bonus and needed to understand time and score better,” Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “I think teams are recognizing players in their strengths and weaknesses and laying off certain guys and pushing up on others. We need to do a better job of running our offense and moving, and for guys that aren’t known as perimeter shooters yet need to be on the move and cutting to the basket.”
Miller-McIntyre’s jumper in transition with just over 4½ minutes left was the Demon Deacons’ final basket. Harris’ hit two free throws with 2:58 remaining for their final points.
Alex Len added 10 rebounds for Maryland, which made 15 of its 30 shots in the second half to win its sixth straight in the series, including the teams’ previous meeting Feb. 2 in College Park by 26 points.
“Every win from here on out is a must-win for us,” Wells said. “We really want to get to the NCAA tournament, and that can’t happen unless we win games.”
The Terps seemed to be in deep trouble after they were whistled for eight fouls in the first 3:47 of the second half. Key players Len, Wells and James Padgett all picked up their third during that stretch — just another in a lengthy list of signs seemingly pointing toward a Wake Forest win.
Maryland entered just 1-6 in ACC road games while the Demon Deacons have quietly re-established Joel Coliseum as a tough place for conference teams to visit.
Wake Forest came in 5-2 in home league games with the two losses — to Georgia Tech and a top-five Duke team — by a combined six points. In the Demon Deacons’ last game here, they handed then-No. 2 Miami its first ACC loss in lopsided fashion, 80-65.
Plus, Wake Forest was honoring Paul — the MVP of the NBA All-Star game and the point guard on the school’s first No. 1 team in 2004-05. A banner bearing Paul’s likeness and jersey No. 3 was unfurled from the rafters at halftime.
And the Terrapins ruined it all.
Maryland outscored Wake Forest 19-9 during the final 9½ minutes of a sloppy first half, then went up 32-24 a few seconds into the second half on a dunk by Wells.
Wake Forest erased that lead by reeling off nine quick points against the suddenly foul-prone Terrapins, with Harris’ steal and dunk putting the Demon Deacons up 33-32 with 15:08 left.
It stayed tight until Pe’Shon Howard capped a 20-8 run with a free throw with 5:24 left that gave Maryland its first double-figure lead at 59-49.
“No matter what happens, we were going to figure it out,” Turgeon said.
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