Nick Faust streaked into the open court, ball in his hands, with nothing between him but a monstrous dunk. Twenty-eight seconds earlier, Faust had done the same, turning an Alex Len blocked shot into a two-handed slam. So after Niagara’s Marvin Jordan missed a three-pointer, Tuesday night’s first-round NIT matchup tied at 29-29, Faust again broke away, took two bouncing strides and jumped.
Then he missed. A wide-open layup.
It was a rare blip in an otherwise solid game for Faust, who notched his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Five of those boards were offensive, another career-high.
“Did he get a double-double?” point guard Pe’Shon Howard asked. “He’s got the length to do a lot of things. Just the fact that Nick plays one through four, shows how versatile Nick can be. I’m sure he’s been close before.”
Howard’s own rejuvenation has helped Faust find his groove. The sophomore teetered between point guard and the wing all season, filling a void left behind as Howard struggled. But as Howard returned to the starting lineup, bringing a steadiness to the back court, Faust was free. He’s reached double figures in six straight games now. Only Len (seven straight to start the season) and Dez Wells (currently eight games) have maintained a streak that long.
“That takes a burden off him,” Howard said. “That’s another responsibility that he had. Like coach said, he’s played one through four. It’s one less position to worry about. Coach jokes around sometimes, maybe he’ll be a five.”
Faust didn’t hit a three-pointer against the Purple Eagles, his first game without one since Maryland traveled to Wake Forest on March 2. But he scrapped around the basket, getting offensive rebounds and tip-ins, and aggressively drove when overplayed on the perimeter by Niagara’s undersized guards.
“He’s been playing good,” Wells said. “He’s been being who Nick Faust has always been. He’s been out of position for a while, with certain things that were going on with Pe’Shon, Seth wasn’t playing well at the time, but everyone’s clicking at the right time. That’s what’s most important for our team.”
>> Something very strange happened with James Padgett. The senior forward received another DNP-CD, which wouldn’t have been surprising had Maryland’s three scout team players – Conner Lipinski, Spencer Barks and Jacob Susskind – not received playing time at the end.
Turns out, that was by request.
“I asked James if he wanted to play in the last 10 minutes, and he said no,” Turgeon said, before ending his press conference.
So this begs the question, what type of player asks to remain out of the game?
A benevolent one, apparently.
“The young kids were playing well, so just keep them going,” said Padgett, who played just nine total minutes in the ACC tournament, including a DNP-CD against Duke.
Given Turgeon’s curtness over the situation, there’s some obvious miscommunication going on. Padgett wanted to give his younger teammates more playing time in a postseason situation, so he deferred to them. Turgeon likely saw something else – a player declining to take the floor. After the game, Padgett sat comfortably in his locker room chair, taking in Kentucky’s loss over Robert Morris on television and said everything was good between him and Turgeon.
“Yeah, it was no big deal,” Padgett said. “The young guys are playing well I said keep letting them play, it’s a great postseason experience, a lot of guys haven’t been here.”
So does that mean he expects to play against Denver in the second round?
“We’ve got another game Thursday, so I’ll be ready to play, do what I can do for the scout and be ready to play,” Padgett said.
>> After hitting a cold streak over the past few games, including that air ball with 10 seconds left against North Carolina in the ACC tournament, Logan Aronhalt finally regained his stroke. He shot 5 for 7 from three-point range after entering 7 for 28 (25 percent) over the past eight games.
>> Talking about the obvious mismatches between his team and Maryland, Niagara Coach Joe Mihalich delivered the evening’s best quote.
“Well, I don’t know that we’re in a swordfight with a butter knife, but they’ve got McDonalds all-Americans, we’ve got kids who eat at McDonalds,” he said, ignoring the fact that Maryland doesn’t actually have any McDonalds all-Americans. “Our starting five is good, we’ve got another kid or two who we can bring off the bench, but it ain’t the same that they got. They’re big too, obviously.”
>> Thursday’s second-round matchup against Denver has been scheduled for 7 p.m. at Comcast Center. The Pioneers topped Ohio 61-57, and now will venture on an NBA-like road trip, crossing two time zones for a quick turnaround.
>> 2013 signee Roddy Peters worked out after the game with two friends, taking some jumpers and full-court one-on-one. Peters is rehabbing a shoulder injury that required surgery, but everything looked fine.