Maryland 72, Clemson 59 Saturday @ Comcast Center
This had all the makings of the day after the day after New Year’s, when the hangover is still lingering, when you can’t quite get rid of the headache from two nights before. In Maryland’s case, it was getting over the memories – and the pounding headache – from Tuesday’s deflating loss at Boston College that followed what had a chance to be a season-defining win over then No. 2 Duke.
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The Terps were not alone. Their fans – at least those among the announced crowd of 15,353 who showed up for the noon tip – were also dead coming out.
“We were flat, and the building was flat,” Turgeon said.
A rare early press – something Turgeon has typically resorted to in desperation against ACC opponents this season – helped the Terps reverse an early deficit and build a 10-point lead late in the first half against the Tigers. Unlike other games this season, when Maryland has squandered double-digit first half leads and lost, the Terps let Clemson get within three by halftime before opening it up again in the second half.
I think a lot had to do with the opponent – like Maryland, Clemson (13-13, 5-9) has won only once in five ACC road games this season – and the fact that the Terps are a much better team at home (15-2) than on the road (2-5). Maryland won despite Alex Len having another sub-par game (9 points on 4 of 10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 1 blocked shot) and an abysmal 6 of 15 shooting free throws.
But unlike some games this season when the Terps let an opponent hang around longer than it should have – or long enough to get its legs and confidence to win, as was the case of last Tuesday’s game at BC – Maryland never let Clemson get within eight or nine points for much of the second half. A19-8 assist-to-turnover ratio was their best of the season and the fewest number of turnovers this season.
“We just seemed a lot more mature today than we’ve been in awhile,” Turgeon said.
Is Faust back on point?
Sophomore guard Nick Faust (City) started again at point. More importantly, he stayed there for nearly all of his 29 minutes and played his best all-around game of the season and one of the best since coming to College Park.
“When you make shots, you stay on the floor, I’ve just got to keep making shots,” Faust said.
Faust, who came into the game shooting worse this season (36.7) than he did as a freshman (37.4), shot the ball better than he had all season, finishing with a season-high 18 points (one shy of his career-high) by shooting 7 of 10 overall and 4 of 7 on threes. He had three assists and no turnovers, following up the five assists and no turnovers he had against Boston College. He had three steals and one blocked shot.
Faust, who will celebrate his 20th birthday Monday, admits that he is still “just trying to get the hang of [playing point guard] still, trying to execute and just run what coach wants us to run and not get a turnover.”
For Faust, it all starts with the confidence he derives from his jump shot – and from Turgeon. Amid a lot of internet chatter that Faust is not happy with his role and might be considering leaving Maryland after this season, the 6-6 sophomore showed for at least one afternoon why there was so much excitement about him coming out of high school.
“Coach says that when I’m stepping into my shot I usually make it, when I’m kind of loose with it, that’s when I miss,” Faust said.
Faust said that he had the feeling all but one of his shots were going in except for a second-half airball – “I was kind of tired,” he said with a smile – and that his recent late-night work with a shooting machine has helped.
If Faust can string together a few more games like this as the team’s point guard, it will help solidify his role going into next season. I still think it will be asking a lot out of incoming freshman Roddy Peters to assume the starting role at the beginning of next season and having Faust there could ease the transition.
But, given the way he has been bounced around because of his and his team’s erratic play at the point, it’s hard to tell whether Faust will be there next week, let alone next year.