Thursday’s victory over Boston College nudged Maryland (15-10, 5-6) into a tie with Clemson for seventh in the ACC standings. And the Terrapins’ 16-point victory Thursday, their most lopsided win of the season, has steeled their resolve heading to Charlottesville for Saturday’s game against No. 22 Virginia.
Coach Mark Turgeon “said it’s the start of a new season,” junior forward James Padgett said, “and we don’t want it to end when the ACC tournament is over.”
To have a shot at a postseason of any sort, Maryland must impress in its final five games — three of them against ranked opponents (home-and-away against Virginia, sandwiched around a Feb. 29 rematch with No. 8 North Carolina in Chapel Hill).
Maryland has yet to beat a ranked team this injury-plagued season, in which point guard Pe’Shon Howard will miss 16 of 30 games to a broken foot and torn knee ligament. And to date, the Terrapins have won only one game on the road (at Clemson on Feb. 7). An upset of Virginia, which has lost three of its last four, would address both shortcomings. It would also restore Maryland to .500 in conference play.
Turgeon is fully aware that Maryland has yet to beat a team that’s currently ahead of it in the ACC standings, its five conference wins coming against 2-6 Georgia Tech, 3-9 Boston College, 3-9 Wake Forest, 3-8 Virginia Tech and 5-6 Clemson.
“At this point in the year, you know where everybody is — ahead of you or behind you” in the conference standings, Turgeon said Friday. “If we want to have a chance at the postseason, we’ve got to finish strong and win a road game or two down the stretch just to be in any post-season play.”
For the games that remain, Turgeon said that freshman Nick Faust would be the Terrapins’ presumptive point guard, with Terrell Stoglin taking over as matchups dictate and walk-ons Jonathan Thomas and Arnold Richmond possibly stepping in periodically.
The 6-foot-6, 175-pound Faust had another impressive showing against Boston College, scoring 14 points, adding four rebounds and posting a career-high six assists and four steals. Taking over for Howard two-dozen games into the season, Faust said, is proving far easier than it was back in November, when he was thrust into a role he hadn’t prepared for or planned on.
“In the beginning of the season I was a little shaky, but now I think I’ve got a lot of confidence,” conceded Faust, who thrilled Terrapins fans Thursday with a splashy behind-the-shoulder pass and a dunk down the stretch. “Everything’s starting to flow better for me.”