Seth Allen admits the nickname is silly, and perhaps a little inappropriate, but the jersey numbers lined up so perfectly that Nick Faust gave it a go. Over the past three games, since Allen returned from a broken foot that had sidelined him since preseason, the two have combined to offer a reliable and necessary bench spark for the Maryland basketball team.
Faust, wearing number 5, has experienced a personal renaissance, averaging 16 points per game with superb offensive efficiency. The presence of Allen, number 4, has given the Terrapins depth and leadership at point guard. Often, they check into the game together, and it’s at these moments, kneeling below the scorer’s table, when Faust calls them the “45 clip.”
“Something stupid like that,” Allen said.
Firearm references aside, Faust and Allen have excelled together. Faust is shooting getter than 50 percent from the field since Allen was cleared and his season percentages have climbed to a respectable level. Allen, meantime, is making 50 percent of his three-point attempts, has lessened his turnover rate by about one per 40 minutes and, while still not totally healthy, has so far given 20 energetic minutes each night.
“You see a whole different Nick Faust,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “It’s not even close. Finally it’s clicked in for him. Still the occasional no-look pass that he’ll throw. Take the kid out of Baltimore but can’t take Baltimore out of the kid … I just think the guys feel less pressure because they know there’s really good players around them.
“We still don’t have Seth back completely. Seth’s foot reacted well from yesterday; he’s pretty much pain-free today, so that’s a good sign. He’s nowhere near to being in shape, but now that he’s getting less pain, we can start working him harder.”
Allen again balked when asked to put a percentage on his health, but freshman Roddy Peters has allowed Turgeon to ease the sophomore back into the rotation. Turgeon still planned to start Peters alongside Evan Smotrycz, Shaq Cleare, Dez Wells and Jake Layman on Monday night against Pittsburgh, but made clear that Allen’s turn is coming.
“Seth’s not quite there yet,” Turgeon said. “Not practicing enough.”
>> When Allen inevitably starts, only one Maryland player will have spent the entire season as a reserve: forward Charles Mitchell.
The sophomore ranks 16th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 90th in defensive rebounding percentage, and is scoring 7.5 points per game, but his minutes have fluctuated as Turgeon sought to establish depth in the front court. Damonte Dodd and Jonathan Graham received turns in the starting lineup, while Mitchell continued to start on the bench.
“When you’re on the bench, you always want to get into the game,” he said. “You’re going to do everything in your power to get in the game and become a better player and to help your team. With any player, you feel like you can never help your team from the bench. You want to be in the game and be involved.”
Four of Mitchell’s double-digit scoring efforts this season came in the first four games, but he snagged 11 rebounds against Georgia Tech and has drawn praise from Turgeon regarding a new commitment to defense. Still, his offensive decision-making remains a work in progress: He shot 3 for 11 on Saturday and barely, if ever, passed out of the post. Basically every entry pass to Mitchell turned into a hook shot, and his 0.7 points per possession reflected the struggles he had doing so.
But Mitchell, Cleare and Graham all played at least 15 minutes against the Yellow Jackets, and these constant waves of low-post substitutions appears to have been the solution for which Turgeon was searching.
Led by agile forward Talib Zanna, the Panthers rank 12th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 34th nationally, so Mitchell may see an uptick in playing time on Monday.
“With me, Shaq, Jon, Damonte, we can get in and rebound,” he said. “That’s one thing I always pride myself on, going out there and trying to get every rebound possible. Playing somebody your size doesn’t come around often.”
>> Maryland’s six turnovers against Georgia Tech were its fewest in the Turgeon era. Having Allen helps, because Faust and Wells are doing less ball-handling, but Turgeon seemed flummoxed when asked if anything else had made the difference.
“All you can do is watch film and harp on them and scream on them every day and talk about decision making every day,” he said. “I can’t sit over there and make every decision or you. You guys have to make better decisions. Probably said it 500 times. I think it’s just being more relaxed with more players around them.
“We’ve done different drills where they have to make quick decisions, they’re running the steps for turnovers, that’s pretty steep over there, just trying different things. I just think it’s maturity and having Seth back. If you make a mistake, I’m probably going to take you out. Sitting on the bench really makes you slow down and try to do things the right way.”
>> Maryland and Pittsburgh have faced seven times in history, twice per decade during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and once in 2010. The Terps hold a 5-2 all-time advantage but their last non-neutral matchup was in 1981. So given Pittsburgh’s rookie status in the ACC, how does that affect the planning process?
“They don’t run a thousand sets, so the preparation’s a little easier for that, but it really comes down to personnel for them and drivers, shooters, that kind of thing,” Turgeon said. “They don’t run a thousand things but they run good stuff. They slip a lot of ball screens or dive. We haven’t seen a lot of that so we’ll have to adjust as the game goes on. If it had been a team that runs 50 sets, then it would have been a little more challenging. But they’re just really well coached and do everything well. They don’t do a lot but what they do, they do well.”