- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2012

Maryland guard Pe’Shon Howard was plenty eager to point to a cause for teammate Nick Faust’s recent uptick in play.

“Now that he’s got his big brother back, he’s all good,” Howard grinned as he looked across the room at Faust, who shot him a smile in reply.

The sophomore was jokingly referring to his own return just before Christmas. But it’s no coincidence Faust is playing better with Howard back in the fold.

The freshman is now playing almost exclusively on the wing for the Terrapins (9-3), who meet Cornell (4-8) on Tuesday in their final nonconference home game, and the payoff is obvious.

In three games since Howard came back from a broken foot, Faust has 10 assists and one turnover in 73 minutes. Granted, less ball-handling means fewer miscues. Yet Faust’s offensive output also is better.

He has back-to-back double-digit nights for the first time in his career. He snapped out of a 2-for-21 slump from 3-point range with three straight makes in Saturday’s 75-63 defeat of Samford.

He’s looked comfortable in transition, and the possibility of playing with Howard and Terrell Stoglin permits him to be more aggressive as an offensive rebounder.

“It’s definitely a great thing,” Faust said. “I think things like crashing and getting to the boards will definitely help me get my flow going to the basket first. Definitely going back to the two and the three helped me a lot.”

It’s also a timely return to form for Faust, who was forced to play extensive minutes at point guard while Howard was absent for the first nine games. That wouldn’t be easy for most freshmen, but it was especially trying for Faust, who barely logged time at the position growing up.

Faust’s defense and rebounding generally has pleased coach Mark Turgeon, and it figured to keep him in the rotation even after it expanded to nine scholarship players when Howard and freshman center Alex Len were available late last month. Improved offense, though, would make him even more valuable.

Faust banked in a 3-pointer in the first half against Samford, prompting Turgeon to yell “Bad shot” at the bench before it swished through. The same sequence unfolded early in the second half when Faust again made a 3. Then again seconds later, only Turgeon didn’t take pre-emptive issue with the last of the made shots

Yet the consecutive 3-pointers turned the Terps’ 14-point lead into their first 20-point edge of the season, effectively clinching the game.

“I’m getting better at it,” Faust said. “I definitely take some risky ones, but it’s part of basketball. You have to be a risky player.”

Those are gambles Turgeon probably will accept so long as Faust’s defense remains stout. The 6-foot-6 Baltimore native might not enjoy a steady stretch with conference play beginning Sunday, but he’s already demonstrating he could be a long-term piece for Turgeon.

“I really enjoy coaching Nick,” Turgeon said. “He’s a lot of fun to be around. He gets on the upperclassmen when they’re not practicing hard. He does everything I ask.”

That meant playing point guard when it wasn’t the most comfortable thing. It meant coming off the bench with Howard back in the fold, hardly desirable for any player.

And now, finally, it means Faust can do what he does best — drive to the basket, rebound effectively and provide help at both ends of the court.

Yes, Howard’s back. And so far, that’s meant a whole lot of good for Faust.

“I think he’s starting to fit in and feel comfortable, and I think these last two games have been good for him,” Turgeon said.

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