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For Terps, Nick Faust a key player

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For Terps, Nick Faust a key player

With the game still very much in question, Maryland’s Nick Faust threw down a ferocious tomahawk dunk to take a 51-47 lead over George Mason.

Faust’s dunk came with about eight minutes left in the second half at a perilous time for the Terps. George Mason was outhustling the Terps, fighting for loose balls and long rebounds, and Maryland needed a spark.

The dunk got the VerizonCenter crowd on their feet and the Terps never again trailed.

“I thought the crowd was loud,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “When Nick dunked it and we were playing soft, we needed them, they were great.”

Maryland’s victory over George Mason (5-3) will not go down in history -- it was a sloppy game with poor shooting on both sides – but Faust’s contributions were key for the win.

Dez Wells is working his way towards stardom for Maryland (6-1). He dropped 23 points in the Terps win over Northwestern, and followed that up with 25 against Mason.

While Wells may make the highlight reel more often, Faust’s steady play and defensive presence has become crucial for Maryland during the team’s current six-game winning streak.

“Nick’s not caught up in scoring right now,” Turgeon said after the win over Mason. “He’s caught up in winning.”

Winning will be much easier for Maryland when Faust and Wells complement one another. In the Mason game, Faust finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Faust also missed a few layups and turned the ball over twice.

Wells flashed his dominant scoring ability against Mason, but he also led the Terps in the turnover category with five. At times, Wells was the best player on the court for Maryland, while at other times he was an asset for Mason.

Considering both Wells and Faust have a slasher’s game and a similar frame, much of Maryland’s tournament chances depend on how the two guards can play with one another. Center Alex Len will be Maryland’s highest NBA draft pick in some years, but Faust and Wells may determine the type of season Maryland has.

After the loss to Kentucky in the season opener, Faust explained that Turgeon sat him down for a conversation about what his role would be on this Maryland team.

“He basically just told me, ‘keep making the right play.’ Sometimes I don’t have to force it,” Faust said of his talk with the coach. “So lately I’ve just been doing whatever I can, helping my team win.”

Asked about what playing with Wells is like, Faust smiled.

 “It’s easy. The last two games Dez has been hitting nonstop,” Faust said. “I’ve just been milking him and making my plays when I need to.”

For a young Maryland team fighting through some growing pains, Faust and Wells will be very important pieces if the team is to make the NCAA Tournament.

“Our guys respect what each guy can do on our team,” Turgeon said. “Therefore, they like each other. I think we’re going to be a good team because of it.”

The dynamic between Wells and Faust looks to be built on a solid foundation.

“Having [Wells] there is definitely helping us as a team and getting me easy points,” Faust said. “We play off one another. I’m just trying to make the right play.”

How far the Terps can go remains to be see, but through seven games they’ve shown enough for Turgeon to be encouraged.

“We’re not there yet,” the coach said, “but I think we have a chance to be a good team down the road.”

 

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Maryland strives to improve Big Ten's worst defense

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Maryland strives to improve Big Ten's worst defense

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland's season is spinning out of control, and the Terrapins find themselves defenseless in their bid to stop it.

Although much of the attention at Maryland this season has focused on the quarterback position, the team's most obvious flaw is its porous defense.

The Terrapins have yielded an average of 36.5 points per game, which ranks last in the Big Ten and 115th of 129 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They are permitting 439 yards per game -- last in the Big Ten and 104th in the FBS.

Over the past two games, Maryland (3-3, 1-2) has given up 99 points and 1,115 yards. One big reason is that the Terrapins have one sack in their last three games.

"We definitely need more pressure on the quarterback," coach DJ Durkin said Tuesday. "That's pretty much a staple of football. If you allow a quarterback to be patient and calm in the pocket, they usually find a guy open."

That's happened more times this season than Durkin would care to remember, and goes a long way toward explaining why Maryland's pass defense is 107th in the FBS.

Even though injuries have cost the Terrapins their top two quarterbacks , perhaps the most notable injury is the broken ankle sustained by defensive end Jesse Aniebonam in the season opener. Aniebonam had nine sacks, 14 tackles for a loss and 30 quarterback hurries in 2016.

"It's been a little shaky getting through it," defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. said.

"When you lose Jesse off the bat like that, he's your main pass rusher," end Brett Kulka said. "So it's going to be an issue to work through."

Durkin got the job at Maryland after a successful runs as a defensive coordinator at Florida and Michigan. In his second season at Maryland, he's tried just about everything to turn things around with this unit.

In the end, though, it comes down to individual effort.

"I'm sure there's always times when you can have a better call in certain situations, but guys have to win 1-on-1s," Durkin said. "If they keep enough guys in the block, someone's got to win a 1-on-1. It's really an attitude and a demeanor. It's about having the right attitude of, `I'm going to go win. I'm going to beat a block.'"

That didn't happen often last weekend in a 37-21 loss to Northwestern. Not only did the Wildcats pass for 293 yards, but tailback Justin Jackson rambled for 171 yards.

It was the third defeat in four games for the Terps. Things don't get any easier Saturday against No. 5 Wisconsin and Big Ten rushing leader Jonathan Taylor, who amassed 219 yards on the ground last week in a win over Purdue .

"He's hard to tackle," Durkin said. "He's got good speed, good vision. He understands what they do. Where to hit the hole, when to be patient how the blocks are going to unfold."

It's going to take a huge effort from the Maryland defense to pull off an upset.

"We need to go back to the basics," Brooks said. "We need to run to the ball more, make more tackles, cause more turnovers."

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Ty Johnson's 100-yard kick return for Maryland earns him Big Ten honors

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Ty Johnson's 100-yard kick return for Maryland earns him Big Ten honors

The Maryland Terrapins got rocked on the road by Ohio State on Saturday, losing 62-14 — although that’s still an improvement on their 62-3 loss in 2016 — but there was a clear bright spot on the field: Ty Johnson.

The Terps’ junior running back was named the Big Ten’s Special Teams Player of the Week, the conference announced Monday, and the honor is well deserved after Johnson stunned the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in the first quarter of the game with a 100-yard kick return.

After Ohio State jumped out to a 14-zip lead about five minutes into the game, Johnson was on the receiving end of the Buckeyes’ kickoff following their second touchdown. Johnson caught the ball on the edge of his team’s end zone, and thanks to great blocking early on by the Terps, he was able to zigzag his way through Ohio State players and find a path down the sideline to the opposite end zone.

Johnson’s standout play was the 37th 100-yard kick return in Big Ten history, according to the conference. It was also Maryland’s first since Will Likely did it against Iowa in 2015.

This is the first time Johnson has received Special Teams Player of the Week honors, and he averaged 31.5 yards per kick return on six attempts against the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Maryland’s next game is Saturday, October 14 when the Terps host the Northwestern Wildcats at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.

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