Wells scores 17 as No. 14 Maryland rallies late past Rutgers
As one shot after another clanged off the rim, it became apparent to Maryland that the impetus for a comeback against Rutgers would have to take place on the other end of the floor.
So the 14th-ranked Terrapins cranked up the defense, relentlessly pursued every misfire and rode the energy of the home crowd to a 73-65 victory Wednesday night in a duel between Big Ten newcomers.
Maryland (16-2, 4-1) trailed 57-51 before closing with a 22-8 run to avert an upset.
"Whatever it takes for us to win, we’ll do. We’ll figure it out," coach Mark Turgeon said. "I think that’s what I like about this team, because it wasn’t looking good. They just said, `We’re going to guard, we’re going to rebound and we’ll make just enough shots and free throws to win the game.’"
Dez Wells scored 17 points on 4-for-15 shooting and Jake Layman had a career-high 13 rebounds to go with 12 points on a 3-for-12 night.
Maryland shot 24 percent from the floor in the second half. But the Terps limited Rutgers (10-8, 2-3) to one field goal over the final six minutes and finished with a 46-33 rebounding advantage.
"For us to shoot 8 for 33 in the second half and for them to play as well as they did the first 10 or 12 minutes of the half, and for us to figure out a way to win, it’s a real credit to our guys," Turgeon said.
Coming off a 67-62 win over then-No. 4 Wisconsin, Rutgers appeared poised for an encore scoring the first 11 points of the second half and taking a 57-51 lead with 7:27 left.
It was 59-55 before Jared Nickens hit a 3-pointer, Wells made two free throws and then turned a steal into a layup to put Maryland in front 62-59.
A 3-pointer by Nickens made it 67-63 with 2:14 remaining, and Maryland secured the victory at the free throw line, much to the delight of the 12,419 in attendance.
"I thought our crowd was unbelievable," Turgeon said. "I thought that was the difference in the game. It gave us energy on defense and affected them a little bit on offense."
Myles Mack scored 19 points for Rutgers, and Bishop Daniels and Mike Williams each had 12.
"Our downfall tonight was that we didn’t rebound the ball well enough and we didn’t finish plays — layups, free throws," coach Eddie Jordan said, referring to the Scarlet Knights’ 8-for-16 performance at the line.
After opening the game with an 8-0 run, Rutgers began the second half with an 11-0 burst to turn a seven-point deficit into a 42-38 lead.
"I thought we did a great job in the second half coming out after being down," Jordan said.
A 3-pointer by Mack made it 45-40, and minutes later two straight baskets by Jack put the Knights up by six with 14 minutes remaining.
That put the Terrapins in comeback mode, and they didn’t take the lead for good until Evan Smotrycz made two foul shots with 2:52 left.
"We have confidence now," Layman said. "We know that no matter what is happening we are going to find a way to win."
Coming close wasn’t good enough for Rutgers.
"I feel like we should have beat Maryland," Daniels said. "We had them on the ropes. I feel like we beat ourselves."
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights were seeking consecutive wins over ranked opponents for only the third time in school history. The last time Rutgers beat a ranked team on the road was a 77-64 win at No. 13 Pittsburgh in January 2008.
Maryland: Star freshman Melo Trimble finished with 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting in 33 minutes. It was the second straight game in which he was held to 11 points; he missed six of seven shots in a win over Purdue last week.
Rutgers visits Minnesota on Saturday.
Maryland hosts Michigan State on Saturday.