Maryland’s second half surge propels it past Notre Dame

Maryland had just endured a dismal first half, missing 23 of 34 shots and getting no points from its leading scorer, Dez Wells.

And so, with his team down by nine against Notre Dame in a game the Terrapins really needed to win, coach Mark Turgeon surprised his team with an impromptu speech.

“I really didn’t know what to say,” Turgeon said. “But I walked in there and said, ‘I don’t know what I’ve done to you guys, but we’re not playing the way we’re capable of playing. So we’ll make a pact: We’re just going to have fun.”

Using those words for inspiration, Wells and the Terrapins used a strong second half to pull out a 74-66 victory Wednesday night and climb back over .500 in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Wells scored all 17 of his points during the final 20 minutes to help Maryland outscore the Irish 49-32.

“It all starts with me,” Wells said. “Coach pulled me aside and said, ‘Dez, you’re taking it too seriously. It’s just a game. You’ve got to have fun.”

The junior forward missed all six of his field goal tries and was 0 for 2 from the line before halftime. After that, he went 3 for 4 from the floor and sank all 11 of his free throws.

“We had a pretty good second half, so I’m satisfied,” Wells said.

Seth Allen contributed 14 points in his first start of the season and Nick Faust added 13 to help the Terrapins (11-7, 3-2) end a two-game skid.

“The kind of year it’s been, it just hasn’t gone the way we wanted,” Turgeon said. “There was a lot of pressure; we had to win this game, and I think our guys felt it.”

Asked if the pressure is off, Turgeon replied, “It’s not a relief. It gives me hope that the guys are listening.”

Maryland shot just 39.7 percent and went 7 for 26 from beyond the arc, but that was good enough to hand Notre Dame (10-7, 1-3) its third straight defeat.

Pat Connaughton scored 19 for the Irish, only four after halftime. Notre Dame went 10 for 26 from the floor and committed eight turnovers over the final 20 minutes while giving away a seemingly secure advantage.

“You’re just not going to win a game giving up 20 offensive rebounds and turning the ball over 17 times,” coach Mike Brey said. “Disappointing. We’re struggling a little bit now. We need to get back into a practice rhythm, and see if we can win a league game Sunday (against Virginia Tech).”

After beating Duke to launch its inaugural run through the ACC, Notre Dame has since lost to North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Maryland.

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