Welcome to a second season of Morning Shootaround. We will follow the Terps throughout the 2013-14 season, but in this space this year, we will provide a look ahead, rather than back. We will try to analyze Maryland's strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of its upcoming opponent. We also hope to provide quotes and anecdotes from practices to give some idea of what coach Mark Turgeon and his team are doing.
Here are a few things to look for as the Terps get ready to play Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center on Monday night.
FAUST FINDS RANGE
Nick Faust has had a few shooting games like the one he had Saturday against Georgia Tech, when he made his first four shots -- all of them 3-pointers -- and finished six of eight overall, including four of six on 3s.
But the junior guard from City has never looked so good making them. A player whose high-arcing heaves -- his former high school coach, Mike Daniel, called them “smokebombs” -- had near textbook form.
It seems as if Faust finally took the advice of several Maryland coaches, including former Kansas point guard Mark Turgeon, to raise the release on his shot and use his athletic ability to get off the floor for his jumpers.
“It’s something that [Turgeon] noticed since I first came here. He said when I was shooting it well in the summertime, [but] since the season started, I started to shoot it a little more flat-footed,” Faust said Saturday.
The result: Faust has made 14 of his last 22 shots from the field, including nine of 15 on 3-pointers. Faust had also made 11 straight free throws in the previous two games before missing his two foul shots Saturday.
Faust had started the season shooting poorly -- and, at times, too often. With a 5-for-18 shooting performance (including three of 10 on 3s) in the season-opening one-point loss to Connecticut, Faust began the season 28 of 85, including seven of 37 on 3-pointers.
“Having one more scorer takes a lot of pressure off Nick,” Turgeon said, referring to the return of sophomore point guard Seth Allen. “If you look at percentages, who are you going to let shoot [as an opponent]? You’re going to let Nick shoot, but he’s knocking them down right now.”
A NEW OPPONENT
Not only does Maryland have a quick turnaround from Saturday’s victory, but the Terps will be taking on an opponent they have not played in years.
Turgeon said he began scouting one of the ACC’s three new members a couple hours after the win over Georgia Tech, with help from his assistant coaches and support staff.
Turgeon even had to pass up watching the second half of his beloved Kansas City Chiefs’ playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts to get a handle on Pittsburgh.
“They don’t run 1,000 sets, so the preparation is a little easier for that,” Turgeon said Sunday. “But it really comes down to personnel with them, drivers, shooters. But they run a lot of good stuff.”
The Panthers are the type of team that has given Turgeon’s teams trouble: they are good at taking care of the basketball (second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio), rugged on the boards (seventh in rebound margin) and generally stingy on defense (10thin points allowed).
The one area in which the Terps might take advantage is with their 3-point shooting. Maryland has shot 20 of 44 in its last two games, and Pittsburgh allows teams to shoot 15 3-pointers per game, though its opponents have made only five per game.
Told that the Panthers are slow to get out on shooters, Turgeon said Sunday: “I don’t think they’re slow at anything, I think they’re really good on defense. Hopefully, we can shoot the ball like we did yesterday [10 of 19 against Georgia Tech]. That would really help.
“They don’t want you shooting layups, they want you beating them from the outside. That’s kind of our philosophy, too. We’ve gotten better at that. Maybe that’s what they’re giving up, not that they’re slow doing it.”
Junior guard Dez Wells has had some of his best games at Maryland away from Comcast Center, most recently when he scored a career-high 33 points in helping the Terps win last month’s ACC opener at Boston College.
As a sophomore last season, Wells had 23 points in a win at Wake Forest and 30 against Duke in Maryland’s upset of the then-No. 2 Blue Devils in the ACC tournament quarterfinals in Greensboro, N.C.
In 13 true road games with the Terps, Wells has averaged 17.4 points per game compared to 11.6 points per game at Comcast Center. Some of that is a byproduct of last year’s weak nonconference schedule when Wells was not needed to play as much.
Wells comes into Monday’s game after two quiet performances at home: he had 10 points against a North Carolina Central team coached by one of his closest friends, LeVelle Moten, and then scored 11 after getting in early foul trouble against Georgia Tech.
Interestingly, the Terps have played well at times this season when Wells has been out of the game. With Wells and sophomore Jake Layman picking up two first-half fouls against the Yellow Jackets, the Terps built their lead to 14 points by halftime.
“That’s a good sign for our team,” Turgeon said.
But the Terps need Wells to stay on the floor Monday night and have a repeat of one of his scintillating road performances to give them any legitimate chance of winning.