By Emily Olsen
Thunderous cheers filled Xfinity Center Saturday evening as the crowd rose to their feet to welcome back team leader Dez Wells for the first time in four and a half weeks. Wells subbed in after six minutes of play against Oakland. The star guard, who missed the previous seven games due to a fractured wrist sustained against Iowa State, did not miss a beat. Wells quickly adjusted to being back on the court and jumped for a rebound on his first defensive play of the game and assisted a score by Michal Cekovsky. Wells’ comeback contributed to the Terps’ 72-56 win over Oakland.
Wells was slow to return to his old style of play. The aggressive scorer spent the first half testing out his doctored wrist, but proved potent in the second half by scoring 10 points.
“He’s just a great player that stepped it up with the game on the line,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said.
Wells returned to the game with the understanding he would have to play aggressively.
“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,” Wells said.
With Wells inserted back into the lineup Maryland’s attack adjust to the addition by continuing to rely on consistent scorers Jake Layman and Melo Trimble.
Layman completed his second double-double on the season, scoring 15 points and racking up a personal high 12 rebounds. Layman has been vital to the Terps in Wells’ absence in addition to his return Saturday evening.
“It’s nice having another scorer out there, another guy that can take over a game for a two-minute span like he did,” Layman said of Wells. “It’s great to have him back. He’s one of our leaders, he makes us feel more comfortable out on the floor.”
Freshman Trimble, who was also a key factor during Wells’ absence, helped highlight the return. Under five minutes to play, Trimble lobbed a ball into the air over the Terps’ basket to a charging Dez Wells who slammed the ball down and added an exclamation point to his welcome-back game. Trimble had 17 points and 3 assists on the night, but was not completely sure of Wells’ wrist strength before the dunk.
“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.”
Trimble’s assist was not the only highlight present during the game. His hair was also noticeably lighter. According to Trimble his teammates had pointed out a similarity in appearances between Trimble and New York Giant’s wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Trimble lightened his hair in a fun gesture to channel the wide receiver, who is now known for an impressive three-finger touchdown catch, but the freshman has had some impressive plays worth imitation in his own right.
With Wells back in the lineup coach Turgeon says Trimble will have an easier time facing less double teams.
“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,” said Turgeon. “You can’t double team Melo as much as teams were.”
Maryland defeated Oakland, but possibly, more importantly, saw the return of their former leading-scorer, motivator, and teammate willing to contribute in any way possible, including as water boy.
“I’m comfortable with any role I have on this team,” said Wells. “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.”
The (12-1) Terps face their first Big Ten Conference game Tuesday at 5 p.m. against (9-4) Michigan State in East Lancing.