GREENSBORO, N.C. -- With less than seven minutes left Friday night -- and his team leading by double figures -- Maryland’s Dez Wells slapped the floor, Duke-style, as he shuffled back on defense.
He said he wasn’t trying to disrespect his opponent, but rather pump up his team.
And that was just one of the many ways he did it during the Terps’ 83-74 quarterfinal victory over the second-seeded, and second-ranked, Blue Devils during the ACC tournament quarterfinals.
Wells, a sophomore wing, scored a career-high 30 points in the victory -- which also marked Duke’s first loss in the quarterfinals since 1997. He made both of his 3-pointers. He got to the bucket with seeming ease. He was 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
And in so doing, he put a little oomph back into Maryland’s NCAA tournament hopes.
“I’m just proud of the way my team played … because it’s not how you start the season, it’s how you finish,” said Wells, who saw Maryland's at-large selection hopes sink when it lost three of its final four regular-season games. “Anyone can make the NCAA tournament, and I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
The Terps looked like it against the Devils.
Led by Wells, they were the aggressor from the beginning, as he scored seven points during a 12-2 game-opening run.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said his seventh-seeded team looked hungry.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said his squad did not.
“We weren’t the Duke team that’s played most of this season, especially these last couple of weeks,” Krzyzewski said. “So, I’m disappointed in our performance, but also very impressed with the performance of Maryland.”
There was plenty to be impressed by. Duke never led, made only 4 of its 25 3-point attempts, and looked like a different team than the one that had been re-energized by Ryan Kelly’s return from injury earlier this month. Turgeon said the Terrapins' goal was to try to make the Blue Devils beat them inside, and although Duke forward Mason Plumlee finished with 19 points, it wasn’t enough.
Not with Kelly shooting 3-for-11, and Seth Curry going 4-for-10.
“I thought our defense was phenomenal,” Turgeon said. “… You have to be both good and lucky to beat a great team, and we were both.”
Krzyzewski pointed out Wells' importance not just because of Friday’s performance, but because of the player's 21-point outing against Wake Forest in Thursday’s first round, too.
And what it could mean for the Maryland team.
“In these two games he’s elevated himself to really a high level,” Krzyzewski said. “You can bring everybody with you. You start playing with a guy who is doing that, and with that sense of urgency …”
And, well, it’s contagious.
Like hitting big buckets.
And like that team-inspiring floor slap in the second half.
“Being the energy guy, I have to do whatever I can to pump [my team] up,” Wells said. “At that moment, I was just thinking, ‘We have to get a stop.’”
Now, the goal is to continue this postseason run.