COLLEGE PARK — After Maryland’s November 29 loss to Illinois in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon expressed concern about freshman guard Nick Faust (City College).
“He’s lost his confidence” Turgeon said. “Nick needs to get his swagger back.”
After a three point, three turnover, zero assist performance days later in the Terrapins’ 78-71 BB&T Classic win over Notre Dame, concerns lingered about the team’s prize recruit out of Baltimore. A wing in high school, Faust was struggling mightily with a switch to point guard before the start of the season.
The concerns were significant enough that Turgeon felt the need to meet with Faust Tuesday, one day before the Terps would meet Mt. St. Mary’s at Comcast Center.
“I talked to him and told him his offense can’t affect the rest of his game” Turgeon said Wednesday night. “He has to rebound and make guys around him better.”
The result of the conversation? A 13 point, six rebound, five assist performance (and two key blocks down the stretch) as Maryland (5-3) hung on for a 77-74 win over Mt. St. Mary’s (1-7).
Like Kanye West in his hit song (with Jay-Z) “Otis”, I guess it’s safe to say Faust has his “swagger back.”
Faust helped hold Maryland together after blowing what was once a 16 point lead against the Mountaineers. As The Mount felt more and more confident in the second half, the Terrapins clearly needed contributions from players other than guard Terrell Stoglin. Stoglin was fantastic again, scoring 23 points and making shot after shot late, but Faust offered help. He canned a three from the corner with 6:41 to play after MSM had taken a 63-61 advantage, then came up with two blocks in the final four minutes of the game. His block of Julian Norfleet with 20 seconds to play came at a time when the Terps were clinging to a one point lead.
It was by far Faust’s best performance since the team’s 78-71 win over Colorado November 18th in the 5-hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
“He went to the rim and got to the foul line” Turgeon added. “He made a three because of his confidence. He still took some bad shots but hopefully he grows out of that. I thought he played with great effort. He didn’t give up on the last play (his block), and a lot of kids would have. That lay up would have given them a one point lead. I was pleased with him tonight.”
“It definitely was a confidence booster for me” Faust said after the victory. “I wasn’t starting off so well this year. (I’m) just starting to play basketball, let things come to me.”
Turgeon said his meeting with Faust was about changing the way he played the game.
“Kids get so caught up in scoring and their shot. They see their numbers and what people are saying and it affects him. We tried to simplify the game for him. Defend, rebound, get the foul line and get shots for Terrell (Stoglin) and (G/F) Sean (Mosley). He did that tonight, he had five assists. We told him if he is going to score get to the rim. His first two free throws bounced in rather than out, that is huge for him.”
Faust said the meeting lead to him playing his most “relaxed” game of his young career.
“He told me to stop pressuring about scoring because he knows I’m a scorer. Just let the offense come to me, try to get my teammates open, kind of let things come to me through defense. I tried to do a great job on defense and rebounding. That’s one of the keys.”
The possible return of G Pe’Shon Howard should help take pressure off of Faust in the backcourt, but in the meantime he’ll have to continue to shoulder a heavy load. Wednesday night was the fifth game where the freshman played 30 or more minutes (37) already. Stoglin has handled the bulk of the scoring for the Terrapins, but they must continue to get help on both ends from other guards.
Faust will ultimately look to develop as a more consistent scorer, but his all-around ability to contribute can be very key for a team that won’t be described as “deep” for some time.
Maryland should have played better (especially defensively) than they did in their close win over an ‘Eers team that had scored more than 63 points just once this season. They shouldn’t have been forced to hang on for dear life against a team that had just dismissed senior guard Lamar Trice earlier in the day.
Maryland should have been better in a number of ways. But Faust WAS better, even in a nailbiter of a win.
In a season where progress might not always be evident, it was a positive step.