COLLEGE PARK -- Nick Faust’s progression from an inconsistent starter to a contributor off the Maryland bench in nearly every game played out during the second half of his team’s 74-66 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night at Comcast Center.
Faust played more of a supporting role offensively to junior guard Dez Wells, who led Maryland’s comeback from a nine-point halftime deficit by scoring all 17 of his points in the second half, as well as sophomore guard Seth Allen, who added 14 in his first start since coming back from a broken foot.
Faust, the 6-foot-6 junior guard from Baltimore (City), certainly helped the Terps on the offensive end, with 13 points in 26 minutes off the bench, including a huge 3-point shot with 1:16 left after the Fighting Irish cut Maryland's 10-point lead to five, 66-61, 30 seconds earlier.
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It was the sixth time in the eight games since Faust was moved out of the starting lineup that he scored in double figures.
But it was on the defensive end that Faust most impacted the game by shutting down Notre Dame shooter Pat Connaughton in the second half. Connaughton missed all five shots he took in the second half after going 5 of 7 before halftime, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers.
“Nick Faust was tremendous. I couldn’t take him out he was so good defensively,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the Terps broke a two-game losing streak that saw his team lose by 20 points at Pittsburgh and 24 at Florida State. “I know Connaughton got tired. He had to play 40 minutes, but I thought Nick Faust was tremendous.”
Faust said he didn’t do anything special in limiting Connaughton’s looks and forcing him to take tough shots.
“Just using my length really,” said Faust. “I have a big wing’s length, but the quickness of a small guard. I just tried to use all my tools to stop him. It’s not an X’s and O’s thing, it’s just me knowing where to be and anticipate things.”
Faust’s defensive performance -- at least in the second half -- came after he was partially responsible for Florida State’s Ian Miller scoring 20 points off the bench in Sunday’s 85-61 victory for the Seminoles in Tallahassee, Fla., and for fellow Baltimorean Durand Johnson (Lake Clifton) scorching Maryland for a career-high 17 points in Pitt’s 79-59 win.
It will be interesting to see whether Faust will continue in his role as defensive stopper -- and offensive spark off the bench -- when the Terps play their next game at North Carolina State on Monday. The Wolfpack are led by 6-8, 215-pound sophomore T.J. Warren, the ACC’s top scorer (22.2 a game). Warren is too quick for junior forward Evan Smotrycz and probably too strong for sophomore forward Jake Layman.
Asked how the Terps will contend with Warren, Wells said: “Just make all his shots tough. With really good players, you can’t take everything away from them. If he gets 26 points off 20 shots, we’ll live with it because I don’t think they can win like that.”