Nick Faust walked onto an empty Comcast Center court, the arena empty save a dozen reporters, a janitorial clean-up crew and the graduate assistant who spent the next hour helping Faust wipe the bad taste from his mouth.
The Maryland basketball team ran away with another nonconference victory, pulling away from LIU-Brooklyn 91-74 on Friday night. But here was Faust, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, drilling pull-up jumpers and lane penetration, dissatisfied with his subpar shooting line and insisting on working late into the night.
Faust finished with just six points on 2-of-8 shooting and, despite seeing floor time for the Terps’ second-half stretch run, did not appear with the starters following halftime. Jake Layman took Faust’s place after the sophomore got whistled for two charges in the opening 20 minutes, at times playing out of control, hoisting ill-advised shots.
“There’s a reason he didn’t start the second half,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “He has to learn. I don’t want the same Nick I had last year. I want him to get better. He likes to score. He’s got to do what’s best for the team. Hopefully they do that. We’ve got enough people to overcome.”
To the side, a childhood friend filmed the workout with a hand-held camcorder while his younger brother and other friends watched. Starting with one-handed floaters around the paint in his solo session with a Terps grad assistant, Faust eventually progressed to driving pull-ups, stopping short of the paint to either dish or hoist up a short shot.
In between, Faust worked on free throws, where he was 1 for 3 against the Blackbirds and 9 for 15 this season. From there, Faust worked around the perimeter with dribble-drives and square-up jumpers, his back to those media members who lingered and marveled at the extra work.
“I think he was allowed to play that way last year,” Turgeon said. “He’s not allowed to play that way this year. He’s got to figure out how to get it out of our system. We need Nick. Nick still played 23 minutes. He’s going to help us. I just need him to play better. Smarter offensively and better defensively. I’m not worried. It’ll come. Nick’s a great kid from a great family, but he is pressing.”
The overhead lights dimmed. The cleaning crew giggled from the stands. Faust was otherwise silent, save the echoing thud of the bouncing basketball. Faust then moseyed to the other end, where his restless friends had begun shooting, and rebounded before sitting down on the Maryland bench, satisfied at the progress, laughing the late night away like nothing had ever gone wrong.
>> Seth Allen was lights out from beyond the arc, finishing with a team-high 19 points on 7 of 10 shooting (5 for 6 from three-point) and played the final 14 minutes and 1 second. It was ironic given that, according to Turgeon, dissenters pointed to Allen’s shooting coming out of high school.
But Turgeon has worked with Allen on his form, forcing the freshman guard to widen his thumb, opening up a bigger shooting pocket. Allen got going with four seconds left in the first half, when he curled off a high screen and drained a three that pushed Maryland’s lead to nine points.
“[Coach Turgeon's] always been working with me on my shot, staying after practice, getting after shot, coming in late at night and shooting,” Allen said.
Late-night shooting. Sounds familiar.
>> More to come this weekend on Dez Wells, but he was probably the happiest he’s ever been during a media session since arriving at Maryland. At times before, Wells has seemed tense, understandable given the burden surrounding his transfer from Xavier. But he’s appeared to have turned a page, beginning with Friday night’s monstrous stat line of 15 points (7 for 11 shooting), eight rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals.
>> Stashed in the realm of “absurdly efficient games” will be Pe’Shon Howard’s line. Again, more to come on Howard later this weekend leading up to Maryland’s Tuesday home matchup with Lafayette, but here are the point guard’s numbers: seven points, seven rebounds, 13 assists, one turnover and two steals.
“I feel like no other point guard can bring what Pe’Shon brings to our team,” Wells said. “He scores when necessary, he passes when necessary.”
With Allen still torrid from the field, questions surfaced about whether he would steal Howard’s playing time at point guard. But Friday night proved they’re most effective together, with Allen shooting from open space that Howard creates on the primary and secondary breaks.
>> Shaquille Cleare played an effective 12 minutes, scoring eight points on 4-of-5 shooting including a pair of two-handed put-backs. His play time was sparse given that Turgeon went small in the second half, but Cleare got some floor time with Alex Len, producing the “twin towers” effect Turgeon had hinted at during his Thursday media session.
>> James Padgett continues to produce in limited time, finishing with nine points in 18 minutes. He’s a valuable weakside option for the Terps, especially when opposing defenses double down on Len on the opposite block, and has made drastic improvements at the free throw line, using his strength to absorb contact, even flashing a nifty left-handed baby hook.