Already soft-spoken by nature, Nick Faust was even quieter during interviews this season. Maryland’s sophomore guard seemed distracted, wondering why the jump shot he worked so hard to retool this offseason simply wasn’t producing. Back spasms, which kept him out of all but five minutes of the Virginia Tech game on Jan. 5, didn’t help matters either.
But this was a new Faust, relaxed and grinning, soaking in Maryland’s win over No. 14 North Carolina State on Wednesday night, its first over a ranked opponent since March 3, 2010. For Faust, the win meant even more. Pe’Shon Howard’s inconsistencies and Seth Allen’s scoring abilities necessitated Faust’s switch to point guard. He played there last season, when Howard was sidelined with an injury, but had spent this winter along the wing, spot-up shooting rather than creating for himself.
Faust was shooting worse than 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range. He still is, after connecting on just 3 of 11 field goal attempts against the Wolfpack. But Faust finished with six points, seven rebounds, three assists and one turnover. His scoring numbers have dipped slightly over the past month or so — he’s averaging just 5.9 points in Maryland’s last seven games — but he also has committed one total turnover in the last four.
Switching to point guard also gave Faust some additional freedom within the offense, providing an almost calming effect on his game.
“I think me playing at the one makes me play with more patience, just taking my time and open my eyes to bigger pictures,” Faust said. “Me moving to the one for this game definitely helped me settle down and take my time.”
Coach Mark Turgeon said he still likes starting freshman Seth Allen over Howard, and Faust isn’t leaving the lineup anytime soon, so it appears that the sophomore will continue to get more run at point guard.
“I got to watch the film. I thought Nick was pretty good early,” Turgeon said. “I thought he did well. He still got 11 shots up.”
Having Faust at point guard also frees up Allen, a natural slasher and scorer, to operate from the wing, where he’s most effective. Allen shot 3 for 7 and finished with nine points, but is rapidly approaching Faust as the team’s third-leading scorer.
“I think it helped me a lot,” Allen said. “I think we got up and down more in transition, we ran our secondary break great. Him playing the point, it was fun, being able to play the two, got a better chance to score it more, I felt more comfortable in scoring and make plays. He did great. He made good decisions, there’s times when they weren’t helping off the wings, and he had to attack and he did so. Nick did a great job.”
Howard, meanwhile, participated in the game’s two biggest plays, and will keep insisting that he passed to Len, no matter what the box score says. He also fired a deft alley-oop to Len from somewhere between midcourt and the three-point line, rifling a pass in traffic against North Carolina State’s zone. He would have finished with an extra assist had James Padgett not fumbled a bounce pass off his knees.
He made his first three field goals of ACC play but attempted nine shots, third-most on the team. The Wolfpack essentially dared Howard to shoot, allowing him to step into open three-pointers which turned into bricks. But on the game’s final play, three players mysteriously converged, allowing Len to spring free.
That Howard drove in that situation, rather than shoot like he did vs. Kentucky, was already a step in the right direction, even if he’s rapidly becoming a reserve role player for the Teprs.
“We felt as though against Florida State, Kentucky, Pe’shon personally settled for a jump shot, but him driving today, it turned out great things,” Faust said. “I definitely think Pe’Shon played with a chip on his shoulder today, trying to make people believe in himself, believe in the team. He played well today, and I think he did a great job.”
MUCH, MUCH MORE
— VIDEO: Maryland’s game-winning sequence.
— Morning Review: Terps finally gut out a close win.
— From the forums: Storming the court, yay or nay?