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Wells scores career high, has Terrapins in position to compete atop ACC

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Through just four minutes of play, it was easy to see that Maryland’s Dezmine Wells was going to have a major impact. The Xavier-transfer scored the Terrapins first eight points of the game, and 36 minutes later, walked off the court with a career-high 25 points as Maryland defeated George Mason 69-62 in the BB&T Classic at The Verizon Center.

“He’s just feeling more comfortable”, said Terrapins’ head coach Mark Turgeon following the win on Sunday afternoon.

“A week ago, Saturday against Georgia Southern, he was about as bad as he could be, and he just flipped the switch and got real aggressive. He got some open looks early, got eight points right out of the chute. He had a great week.”

Wells scored just seven points on 3-for-7 shooting against Georgia Southern last Saturday, but bounced back on Tuesday against Northwestern, scoring 23 points, and finished up the week strong, helping his team earn their sixth consecutive victory since dropping the season opener against Kentucky.

“I’m going to cool off at some point”, said the sophomore guard.

“But whatever my team needs from me, that’s what I’m going to provide, whether that’s grabbing 25 rebounds or from the bench. I don’t want to make this about myself because I couldn’t have done this without my team. They welcomed me with open arms when I first got here and I couldn’t have done any of this without those guys. My coaches have also done a great job developing my game and helping me and stringing me along with everything that’s happened to me.”

But Wells 25 points did not come easy. In fact, all ten of Wells second half points came either on lay-ups in traffic or at the foul line. Wells used his elite athleticism and versatility to persevere.

“He’s got a wide body, and knows how to use it to get to the basket and does it very well”, said George Mason redshirt Junior Sherrod Wright, who finished with a team-high 17 points.

“He attacks the lane very hard and uses his body to be effective.”

The way things are in the ACC now, the Terrapins are in prime position to sit below Duke at the top of the conference.

There is no debating that the Blue Devils are the conference’s top team right now. But as of December 2nd, everything else in the ACC is unknown. North Carolina looks to be searching for an identity. North Carolina State is learning to deal with hype and pressure. Florida State has taken a giant step back, as evidence by their 61-56 loss to Mercer on Sunday. If there was ever a time for Maryland to make a move, it’s now.

The Terrapins are a surprisingly deep team this season. Eight players logged at least 14 minutes of action on Sunday, and each player brings a unique skill-set to the table.

Ukrainian big-man Alex Len has emerged as one of the country’s elite centers. Point guard Pe’Shon Howard has bounced back from an ACL injury, and is averaging just under seven assists per game. Sophomore wing Nick Faust had one of his better games of the season on Sunday, scoring 14 points, despite shooting 3-for-10 from the field.

Mark Turgeon has a capable bench made up of shooters, big men and glue guys, along with his five talented starters. There are not too many unranked teams in the country with the bevy of options that the Terrapins have.

But based on Sunday’s outcome, the Terrapins shouldn’t be unranked for too much longer.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.