Four months after being expelled from Xavier, Dez Wells is starting to flourish at his new basketball home.
Wells scored a career-high 25 points Sunday, highlighting a bizarre statistical day for Maryland in a 69-62 win over suburban rival George Mason in the BB&T Classic.
"Probably the happiest I've been in my life," said Wells, who accounted for half of Maryland's 22 field goals. "Xavier's a great place — I have nothing bad to say about those guys, but I wouldn't rather be anywhere but Maryland right now."
The Terrapins (6-1) won despite making only four jump shots — none in the second half. They rode the inside, penetration and fast-break games of Wells, Nick Faust (14 points) and Alex Len (12) and made 23 of 39 free throws to improve to 8-0 all-time against their neighbors from the Virginia side of Washington, D.C.
A standout freshman at Xavier last season, Wells was kicked out of the school in August for violating the school's code of student conduct. A week later, a grand jury has rejected proposed criminal charges of sexual assault against him, but the school declined to take him back.
He's now at Maryland, where he has scored 23 and 25 points in back-to-back games.
"He's just feeling more comfortable," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "A week ago, against Georgia Southern he was about as bad as he could be, and he just kind of flipped the switch and got real aggressive. ... He's a smart player. He asks a lot of questions. He asks too many questions sometimes, but he wants to be good."
Turgeon also joked that Wells is on pace to set a record for turnovers. Wells committed five Sunday, giving him 13 in three games.
"It's going to come as we learn each other a lot more," Wells said. "I've only been there two months with these guys, so we have a lot of learning to do."
Wells also got some encouraging words from former high school teammate John Wall, who was in the building for a practice with the Washington Wizards.
"He was one of the guys who really helped me when I went through the situation this summer," Wells said. "He told me to keep my head high, and God's going to make the way."
On the court, Wells and Faust combined to make three jump shots early in the first half, and Wells made a 3-pointer in the final minute of the half. Those were the only outside shots to find the net for Maryland in the entire game.
"We're just not shooting the ball at the clip that we need to be shooting the ball at to be a great basketball team," Turgeon said. "We have guys that can shoot it; we're just not shooting the ball well."
The game was full of other anomalies. George Mason lost despite taking 22 more shots (71-49) and committing 10 fewer turnovers (19-9).
But the Patriots were plagued with poor shot selection, accounting for their 31-percent rate from the field (22 of 71). Sherrod Wright and Patrick Holloway scored 17 points apiece on combined 12-for-24 shooting for George Mason (5-3), while the rest of the team went 10 for 47.
"Some of our decision-making, at key times, you can't explain it," George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said.
Hewitt's Colonial Athletic Association school is 4-25 vs. current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the coach dismissed such numbers in an era of seemingly daily conference realignments.
"We're all independents," Hewitt said. "The conference thing is a joke now. If you've got 16 teams in a conference, you can't tell the strength of anything."
Maryland led 34-30 at the break, but George Mason opened the second half with a 7-0 run in 90 seconds, taking its first lead on Anali Okoloji's 3-pointer. The teams stayed close for the next 12 minutes, but Maryland did just enough to pull away late.
Maryland has played in all 18 editions of the annual BB&T Classic, which raises money for children's charities, but attendance at the event has waned in recent years. Sunday's game drew 10,256 — leaving the Verizon Center half-empty — and Turgeon has hinted that the event might not be in the school's best interest when compiling the nonconference part of the schedule.
"We'd like to be back," Turgeon said. "But we've also got to take care of Maryland, so we'll see."
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