Nick Faust checked into Maryland’s win over Wake Forest on Tuesday night as part of a four-man line change and missed the first shot he took. Then he missed the second, and it seemed like another one of those games for the Terrapins’ junior guard. He had always walked a tightrope between brilliance and recklessness for Maryland. Moments like these were often the catalyst for the latter.
As Faust has welcomed this sixth-man role this season, providing an energetic spark outside the starting lineup, his game has come under control. Sure, he will still heave transition three-pointers at times and can career down the floor like a runaway sports car, but his career-high 20 points against the Demon Deacons represented everything Coach Mark Turgeon had hoped Faust would become – efficient, smart and, most importantly, calm.
“I would say I’m more under control,” Faust said. “I’m at my own pace, that’s when I’m at my best. Even my teammates tell me that. When I’m speedy and trying to go too fast, that’s when I mess up or get myself in trouble. When I pace myself, it’s usually good.
“Too amped sometimes, trying to do too much at times. I just got to score through the offense, let it work for me.”
Back in high school in Baltimore, Faust scored 20 points all the time. He did so his sophomore season against John Carroll and on many occasions after that. He was the star, and that’s what stars do. But he had never reached the milestone at Maryland and he knew that. It had taken too long, he said later, but it felt good to finally crack it.
“Really?” sophomore Jake Layman asked, when told Faust had never previously reached 20 points in college. “Well congrats to Nick. Tonight, he really kept us in the game early with his shooting. It was good to have somebody make those shots. A lot of guys weren’t.”
Faust can still infuriate fans by preening toward the cameras after big dunks, but that is simply his fun-loving nature, the college kid who once spelled the surname of Duke’s coach, “K-R-E-Y-S-C-H-E-W-I-Z-Z-L-E.” And Turgeon can reconcile this style with Faust’s energy. Sitting on the bench while the starters play, Faust often finds himself noticing things the Terps aren’t doing, things he can provide once Turgeon looks at him and says, “Nick, it’s time to go.”
“I definitely notice it,” Faust said. “I have to bring firepower off the bench.”
By intermission, Faust had scored 11 points on three three-pointers, including an isolation swish from atop the key with two seconds left. It was the second straight game he had commanded the final possession before halftime, having made an acrobatic, improbable, running bank shot against Duke on Saturday.
After practices at Comcast Center, team managers often wheel out the shooting machine, a towering figure that surrounds the basket with tall netting. It takes a high-arching form to make it over the net; line drives, like the kind Faust used to hurl earlier in his career, won’t do. Over the past several weeks, Faust has ramped up his shooting program. One recent day, he, Seth Allen and Roddy Peters “got up like 1,500 shots after practice.”
“That was good for us,” Faust said. “Nothing major, just repetition.”
In the second half against Wake Forest, Faust pulled up for a transition three-pointer, exactly the kind of quick shot Turgeon had been asking his players to avoid. But it went in and it expanded Maryland’s lead back to nine points, so in hindsight everything was okay. He would finish with five rebounds, four assists, one block, one steal and only one turnover, while making 7 of 11 field goal attempts. The only shot Turgeon questioned came later that half, one possession before Faust’s dunk gave him 20 points, when he again pulled up in transition for a 15-footer.
It went in.
“I would say it’s just being under control, pacing myself,” Faust said. “Sometimes I get a little ahead. When I’m playing with a great pace and with poise, I’m usually pretty good.”