Nick Faust kept shooting and the shots kept falling. He had always played with unbridled confidence, the kind that generated highlights and mistakes in roughly equal proportions, but ever since Faust slid to the bench this season, a move that typically stabs morale rather than boost it, the junior has reformed himself into one of the Maryland basketball team’s most consistent contributors.
“Right now it’s feeling good,” Faust said. “Every shot I think it’s going to go in once I shoot it. I’m kind of shooting with no conscience right now. Just having an abundance of confidence and believing everything is going to go in.”
This, by itself, seems altogether similar to the Faust of November and December, when he was shooting 18.2 percent on three-pointers through 10 games. But after reforming his shooting form before Christmas break by heightening his release, Faust has actually been Maryland’s best deep threat.
Saturday afternoon offered the latest example, when during a 77-61 victory over Georgia Tech at Comast Center he made 4 of 6 three-pointers and finished with a game-high 16 points. Faust canned four straight before one rattled out, and he would’ve made five if teammate Evan Smotrycz hadn’t been whistled for a moving screen.
“He’s just under control,” Turgeon said. “He’s so much better with the ball and not forcing things. He’s playing like a veteran guard should play. He’s played a ton of minutes since he’s been here.”
Well over 2,000 minutes, to be precise, and up until mid-December many of them had been similar. But Faust has embraced Turgeon’s offseason challenge to become Maryland’s lockdown wing defender and, since moving to the bench before the BB&T Classic loss to George Washington, has seen his offense blossom in succession.
“He’s making shots,” Evan Smotrycz said. “He wasn’t really hitting early but today he looked like he was really feeling it. I don’t know if it’s anything in particular. He’s a really good player. It may have been a matter-of-time thing. If he’s feeling it, that kind of adds another dimension to our team and we’re really tough to stop.”
Last week, Turgeon noticed that Faust had been attempting three-pointers flatfooted and offered some criticism: elevate the release to create more arc. The result? The best three-game stretch of Faust’s career at Maryland, with 16 points per game and only five turnovers during that span.
“I’m embracing it,” Faust said of his new role. “Just doing whatever I can to have an impact for the team right away.”
Turgeon linked Faust’s rejuvenation to the return of point guard Seth Allen, the root from which all of his team’s recent improvements have apparently stemmed. To follow Turgeon’s logic, a healthy Allen alleviates the pressure off his cohorts, which begets more consistent production from the supporting cast. Faust hasn’t cracked 30 minutes since the Florida Atlantic game on Dec. 14, but over the past three games only four players have. Against the Yellow Jackets, Smotrycz (14 points), Allen (10 points) and Dez Wells (11 points) also reached double figures, and all nine players who saw minutes also scored.
“Yeah it does look like a different team,” Turgeon said. “It feels different. It’s fun. I tell my wife all the time, nothing feels right all year. Then all of a sudden you add a little sophomore guard, he’s still not 100 percent, but he makes a huge difference.”
So does having a measured Faust, who best exemplifies Maryland’s improvements since losing to Boston University. Perhaps Faust always felt like every shot was going in and hoisted them accordingly. Only now, they finally seem to be.