GREENSBORO, N.C. — Dez Wells found a new way to hang a big number on Wake Forest and give Maryland another game against the team it most loves to hate.
Wells scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half to help the Terrapins beat pesky Wake Forest 75-62 on Thursday night in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
He single-handedly took care of the Demon Deacons less than 2 weeks ago almost exclusively on drives to the basket. This time, he incorporated a jump shot into his repertoire, hitting both of his 3-pointers.
“Everyone tells me I’m the energy guy on this team, and they go as I go,” Wells said. “That’s the role that I have, and I just want to do what I have to do for my team to win. I can’t let these guys down.”
Alex Len and Seth Allen added 11 points for the seventh-seeded Terps (21-11), who struggled for about 30 minutes against a Wake Forest team they previously beat twice by a combined 36 points.
But then they held the Demon Deacons without a field goal for a critical 8½-minute stretch while using a late 24-8 run to pull away for their seventh straight win in the series.
Maryland will face No. 2 Duke, the tournament’s second seed, in the quarterfinals Friday night. The Terps knocked off the Blue Devils last month in College Park when they also were No. 2, and — because they’re leaving for the Big Ten at some point in the future — don’t know how many more times they’ll take on Mike Krzyzewski’s powerhouse program.
“We’ve just got to be ready for a war,” Maryland guard Pe’Shon Howard said.
C.J. Harris scored 19 points in his final college game — but was 0-for 4 from the field after halftime — and Devin Thomas added 14 for the 10th-seeded Demon Deacons (13-18).
They ended their season — their third straight sub-.500 finish — by losing 10 of 13 and they haven’t won an ACC tournament game since 2007.
Still, Wake Forest led 52-51 on Madison Jones’ layup off a pretty feed from Harris with just over 10 minutes left.
But the offense disappeared after that. The Demon Deacons missed their next seven shots, started giving the ball away and had trouble converting consistently from the free-throw line.
Wake Forest made just 4 of 10 foul shots during the stretch when things slipped away, and finished 12 of 21 from the line.
“We turned the ball over (nine times in the second half) and they were bad turnovers,” coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “We coupled that with missing free throws, and the game got away from us.”
The Terps, meanwhile, were content to give Wake Forest those free throws in exchange for 2- and 3-point shots — mainly because they weren’t missing them. Maryland was 14 of 30 from the field in the second half and 23 of 48 (47.9 percent) for the game.
Logan Aronhalt followed Jones’ layup by hitting a 3-pointer that put Maryland up 54-52. After Harris tied it with two free throws, Len sent home an alley-oop dunk from Allen to make it 56-54.
Howard scored five straight points for the Terps and they pulled away from there.
Nick Faust and Howard each finished with 10 points for the Terrapins, who snapped a two-game losing streak and won for the first time since a 67-57 win over Wake Forest on March 2 in Winston-Salem.
This marked Wells‘ second straight 20-point performance against the Demon Deacons. He hung 23 on them in that victory to spoil Chris Paul Day, making 11 of 12 shots while repeatedly slashing his way through the lane.
“We did a great job stopping Dez Wells in the first half in transition, and most of his points were (on) jump shots,” Thomas said. “We would live with that because he isn’t a good jump shooter — except for today — but normally he likes going to the rack. And we weren’t going to allow him to go 11 for 12 from the rack again.”
Wake Forest entered 2-13 in road and neutral-site games and hadn’t won anywhere but the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem since beating UNC Greensboro here on Dec. 22. But the Demon Deacons sure made themselves comfortable here early.
Harris scored 13 points in the first 13½ minutes, hitting two 3-pointers roughly 45 seconds apart during the 18-7 run that put Wake Forest up 29-22.
But after Maryland opened the second half with a quick 9-2 spurt led by Wells, neither team led by more than three until the Terps’ late run.