Nick Faust was about to run into Comcast Center to play his first game primarily at point guard in months Thursday when a man stepping off the floor came over with a request.
“Get a win tonight,” Ernie Graham implored the freshman on the evening his jersey was honored nearly 31 years since he last played for the Terrapins, one request made from one Baltimorean to another.
Faust and his teammates obliged, blasting Boston College 81-65 in perhaps Maryland’s most thorough outing of the season.
A filthy line in the box score —- 14 points, four rebounds, six assists, five steals —- was the byproduct of Faust’s return to the point, a move made out of necessity with Pe’Shon Howard done for the year with a torn right knee ligament.
For a night, Howard’s absence didn’t seem to sting so much.
“For really his first game in a long time playing point, he was really good,” coach Mark Turgeon said.
Yes, there were five turnovers as well, continuing the motif of stuffing the stat sheet with anything possible. Yes, Faust was blissfully unaware of the importance of the shot clock on several occasions late as the Terps (15-10, 5-6 ACC) attempted to close out the struggling Eagles (8-18, 3-9).
But there was also a behind-the-back pass to set up an easy basket. There was a one-handed jam and a self-assured glare beyond the baseline afterward.
“I’m just trying to play,” Faust said simply.
There is no try, not with Maryland’s remaining roster and its schedule to finish out the regular season. The minutes are there with Howard out, and it’s no coincidence Faust didn’t play more than 30 minutes once when Howard was available. He’s done so in both games since the sophomore was injured.
Faust, of course, isn’t a natural point guard. It wasn’t where he expected to play before the season. He didn’t figure to log time there when Howard returned from a broken foot in December. It isn’t his long-term home, either, regardless of his advances since the start of the season.
Yet he is the linchpin for much of what Maryland will ultimately accomplish in the season’s final month. The Terps clinched at minimum a .500 record entering the ACC tournament on Thursday, and did so with their largest margin of victory of the season.
Such a performance was unthinkable —- either individually or as a group —- in November, when Faust was bombarded with far greater responsibility than he ever could have guessed he would be tasked with in his first season.
“I’m more consistent and more precise with what I do,” Faust said. “I know how to get my team involved now and know how to make the smarter decision. That’s what I’ve gotten better at.”
There was more than just a few nifty passes. Faust marked Matt Humphrey, the Eagles’ leading scorer, for much of the night and held him to his lowest output in four weeks.
“I think he’s a lot better today than he was when we started when Pe’Shon got hurt the first time,” Turgeon said. “I just thought he was great defensively. He got us into our stuff pretty well. He got a little dribble-happy in the second half, but the thing is Nick’s going to do what I ask him to do. That’s nice.”
The game wasn’t all about Faust. Terrell Stoglin went on a personal 14-0 run as Maryland opened up an early lead. James Padgett delivered 15 points and five rebounds off the bench in the second half alone.
The evening’s maestro, however, was Faust, who made good on the plea of another talented Baltimore native.
Graham left his name scattered across the all-time leaders in Maryland’s record book three decades ago. With early ample time and obvious growth, there’s a chance Faust might just do the same.
“He’s learned so much,” Stoglin said. “He’s maturing. And that’s pretty much it right there.”
—- Patrick Stevens