Dez Wells, Melo Trimble lead No. 14 Maryland to upset of No. 5 Wisconsin

Melo Trimble, Dez Wells (AP Photo)

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — Back on January 17th, back when Maryland’s first run through the Big Ten conference schedule was still in the beginning stages, the Terps were in the process of making what appeared to be a definitive statement as to who Wisconsin’s biggest challenger for Big Ten supremacy would be.

On that day Mark Turgeon’s club blew out Michigan State in the Xfinity Center, a 75-59 win that completed a sweep of the Spartans and put Maryland into sole possession of first place in the league standings. But over the course of the past month, that win had begun to feel like the high point of the Maryland season. There were blowout losses at Indiana, at Ohio State, at Iowa. There were a series of closer-than-they-should-be wins over league bottom-feeders at home, including a buzzer-beating win over Northwestern in which the Terps capitalized on one of many Wildcat collapses this season.

There were questions mounting. If Maryland is truly a top 15 team, why aren’t they beating the teams they should beat by more? Why can’t they blow people out? The eye test may not factor into NCAA tournament selection, but try explaining that to a rabid fan base after getting blown out in three straight road games.

That brings us to Tuesday night, No. 14 Maryland’s date with No. 5 Wisconsin, a chance to not only keep the dream of a Big Ten regular season alive but an opportunity to legitimize that gaudy, 22-5 record.

“I told my team pregame,” senior guard Dez Wells told reporters after the game, “I said, ‘just follow my lead.'”

And that they did. Wells finished with 26 points, seven boards and four assists to lead Maryland to a season-defining, 59-53 win.

Wells was the best player on the floor Tuesday night, a powerful statement considering that National Player of the Year frontrunner Frank Kaminsky plays for the Badgers. The key to the game was always going to be the matchup between Wells and whichever Wisconsin forward guarded him, and Wells completely dominated that battle from the tip. He scored 14 of his 26 points in the first 20 minutes, continually beating the slower Nigel Hayes, a 6-foot-7 power forward, off the dribble.

He was the bulldog, the leader that every coach expects their senior star to be.

“It’s a great feeling when you see your senior leader go out there and say, ‘hey coach, we got this,'” Mark Turgeon said after the game. “That’s what you expect out of a guy that grows with the program.”

“Dez is special. I’ve been saying that. He’ll make somebody’s roster because of the way he competes.”

While Dez will get the headlines on Wednesday morning, it was freshman point guard Melo Trimble that made the difference down the stretch. He finished with 16 points, including a pair of critical buckets and two free throws in the final minutes. His biggest basket came with 33 seconds left in the game. Wisconsin had cut Maryland’s lead to three, but Trimble was able to beat Josh Gasser — a terrific defender — off the dribble and score, putting the Terps up 57-52 and all but starting the Badger busses.

“I don’t know how many more times I can brag about Melo,” Turgeon said of his star. “Melo’s Melo. He does what he does.”

The Badgers got off to a slow start on Tuesday, shooting 29.6 percent from the floor and 1-for-11 from three while digging themselves a 31-20 halftime deficit. Some of those threes were forced, but a more than half of those that they missed were wide open looks. After the game, Bo Ryan and the Badger players attributed those misses to quick shots, firing up jumpers without playing inside-out. That may have played a role, just like the raucous student section and the unfriendly confines of a new road venue may have played a role as well.

The Badgers got eight straight points from Frank Kaminsky early in the second half to climb back into the game, and as the Terps started sending waves of help into the post, the threes began to fall. Wisconsin tied the game at 47, but a tough traveling call went against the Badgers, and Maryland took advantage. Wells twice got into the lane and drew a foul, and after a free throw from Kaminsky, blew past Hayes again, this time dunking on Wisconsin’s entire front court.

That made it 53-48 with four minutes left, and Wisconsin would not have possession with a chance to tie the rest of the game.

The win was a critical one for the Terps, as it not only keeps them alive in the Big Ten title race — they’re now two games back of Wisconsin with three to play — but it’s another quality win to add to their tournament profile. For a team projected to fall in that No. 3-No. 5 seed range, beating one of the nation’s best teams can really make a difference.

There’s more to it than just the numbers, however.

“Today was big,” Turgeon explained, doing his best journalist impression, “because, ‘Well, they’ve only beat Northwestern by two, they’re only beating Nebraska by four, they’re only beating Penn State by six. How good are these guys?’ Well, we are what we are. We figure out a way to win. We compete when we have to. I’ll take close wins when we win.”

“You can win as many close games as you want to, but because of somebody’s record, they expect you to blow them out,” Wells added. “But there’s good players on those teams, and just because somebody else blows them out doesn’t mean that we’re going to.”

“You’ve got to keep perspective and know that we’re going to play our game and execute the way we know how to and trust that everything is going to come out the way we want it to if we do those things.”

UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

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STORRS, Conn. — National champion UConn added some shooting depth to its roster Friday, announcing the signing of former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal.

Spencer, who graduated last month with a year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.2 points in his only season in New Jersey. The 6-foot-4 guard, who played his first three seasons at Loyola of Maryland, shot 44.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

“Cam is the perfect addition to our basketball program,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said. “He brings a unique combination of high-level skill and feel for the game, with a fierce competitiveness that has allowed him to enjoy a terrific college basketball career thus far.”

The Huskies lost their top 3-point scoring threat, sophomore Jordan Hawkins, to the NBA draft, along with wing Andre Jackson Jr. and post Adama Sanogo.

Guard Tristen Newtown gave the Huskies a boost last month when he withdrew his name from the draft pool and returned to Storrs.

The Huskies began summer workouts this week, welcoming a top recruiting class led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. The class also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

“I think that some of my strengths will stand out in UConn’s style of play,” Spencer said. “They have a lot of great movement and they play so well together, with great chemistry. I think that I can come in and hopefully contribute to that.”

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.