A red uniform has the ball at the top of the key. He drives to the hoop. Touched on the way through, the whistle blows, and he struts to the line after making his layup. His free throw slices through the net in front of a backdrop of maroon seats, and his team’s lead continues to grow.
This sequence describes the late-second half performance of Maryland forward Dez Wells on multiple possessions. Wells, a junior, who can also function as a guard, figured out the Boston College Eagles’ biggest weakness in the second half of his team’s 88-80 triumph at Conte Forum on Thursday night. All he had to do was drive.
There were many situations in which it was far too simple for Wells. KC Caudill gave the ball away just over half court with 6:50 remaining. Wells got the ball after a steal by his teammate Nick Faust. Despite Caudill’s efforts to back track, Wells was able to breeze through Caudill and Garland Owens for an easy layup. Wells was fouled too, so he went to the line and knocked down the extra shot.
After that play, Wells had 20 points, and the Terrapins took a one-point, 65-64 advantage. In the final moments of the game, Wells would tack on 13 more points to tally a career-high 33.
“That was probably our worst defensive segment of the year and that’s where we obviously got to get better strategically,” men’s basketball head coach Steve Donahue said of the final four minutes of his team’s performance.
The ease with which Wells got to the hoop was unacceptable for the Eagles, who have struggled on the defensive end throughout the season.
Caudill started for BC to give the team an extra edge under the hoop. The big man’s play at center allowed Ryan Anderson to head to the four spot. After Caudill’s second foul came before the first media timeout, Donahue replaced him with freshman Will Magarity.
“Playing both of them together, and Ryan at the four, allows Ryan to go and get 14 and eight on six of eight shooting,” Donahue said.
Anderson’s move to power forward gave him more space to create baskets for himself, especially in the first half. On the perimeter, he looked off Olivier Hanlan and cut through two Maryland defenders on his way to a powerful two-handed jam to make it 7-4, before Joe Rahon found him for another dunk off a backdoor cut.
The Terps broke the game open in the first half however, as BC’s defense played poorly, giving the visitors plenty of open looks through which they gained a 23-11 advantage.
A missed Terrapin three with that score line in tact was rebounded by Hanlan, changing the course of the game. The sophomore guard took the ball up the floor and leaped just before the 3-point line, lobbing the ball to Owens, who was streaking down the court on Hanlan’s right. Owens finished the alley-oop with aplomb to spur an 11-2 run from the Eagles that pulled them within three. With Owens on the floor, BC had life.
“I thought Garland had a lot to do with that,” Donahue said, “His energy came. He gets in, you got a couple deflections and then you get a transition dunk off a pass. I just thought he brought great energy from the start and got us out of that tentativeness we had to start the game.”
Owens finished the half with two 3-pointers as well.
A controversial three-point play from Rahon allowed the Eagles to go into halftime trailing by six.
In the second half, Hanlan began to drive. He kept getting to the hoop and to the line. The sophomore guard’s efforts saw him go 14 of 14 from the stripe in the second period of play. He finished with 26 points and eight assists. One of his helpers came when he found Owens for three, cutting the Terps’ lead to one, 56-55. The freshman was hot from behind the arc, hitting four of five.
Donahue believes that Owens’ athletic ability will continue to help the team. “We need his size and athleticism.” Donahue said. “I think he makes us a better team and as I do Kyle. I think he brings some physicality. I think we’re really close in a lot of ways, and as I’ve said, I have great faith in this group and we’re going to chip away at it and we’re going to be a good team.”
Hanlan gave the Eagles their first lead of the game, 57-56, from the line with 10:20 remaining.
BC was able to build a four-point lead on two occasions, but the defense was set to fall apart. The Eagles remained in competition temporarily though, and Ryan Anderson became the 40th Eagle to reach the career 1,000-point mark when he tied the game at 70.
“I thought we played some of our best basketball of the year for a long stretch there in particular in the second half, defensively,” Donahue said.
Hanlan indicated that there is some miscommunication on the defensive side of the ball.
“Yeah, communication plays a big role and I feel that if people just scream on defense, scream anything and that’ll help us,” said Hanlan.
Bits of help-defense would have aided BC in the final four minutes, as Wells kept on driving to the bucket. The junior lit up the scoreboard in the process, putting his opposition to bed in its first ACC game of the season.
“We should have been able to stop that,” Donahue said of Wells’ play late in the game. “We just didn’t do a good job.”