As usual, Maryland star guard Melo Trimble was front and center when his Terrapins beat Indiana in a hotly-contested Big Ten affair on Tuesday.
After Indiana’s O.G. Anunoby had a highlight-reel dunk for the ages to cut the Terrapins’ lead to one point with 12 seconds left, Trimble’s calmly-made pair of free throws with eight seconds left provided the deciding points of the game. They provided Maryland the cushion it needed, as Robert Johnson’s three-pointer was off the mark at the buzzer.
One could point to Maryland’s freshman trio of Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter as the difference in the game, since it scored 37 of the Terrapins’ 75 points and grew up in the process. The idea wouldn’t be totally wrong.
However, the play of Trimble set up the Terrapins to succeed and claim a huge NCAA resume-building win. The junior guard scored a team-high 18 points. Although he shot just 5-16 from the field, the composure Trimble displayed is another reminder why he is one of the most underappreciated players in college basketball.
Good players succeed even when they have off nights, and that was never more apparent than on Tuesday. Even when he is not the story, he is the story.
Now at 15-2 and 2-1 in the Big Ten, Maryland has to start being taken seriously. One can poke holes in the Terrapins’ scheduling—which is a major reason for their so-so RPI of 52—but the eye test reveals a pretty solid team. Besides, Maryland now owns six top-100 wins, which includes four top-50 wins (Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Michigan and Indiana), according to KenPom.com.
You can’t blame Maryland coach Mark Turgeon for scheduling light to get his young players some confidence early on. After losing Diamond Stone, Robert Carter, Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon, this was supposed to be a transition season. Even with Trimble returning, that’s still a lot of personnel to make up for.
That said, with a player of Trimble’s caliber leading the way, Maryland is ahead of schedule and playing above expectations.
If you have paid even half attention to Trimble the last couple of years, you’d realize how special he is and what he is capable of. You can’t be caught off guard by what he is doing.
As expected, Trimble leads Maryland in scoring (17.5 points) and assists (49), while also shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range. In his career, Trimble has been named to the Associated Press Honorable Mention list. He made the All-Big Ten second team last season and the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in his first go-round. After scoring 18 points on Tuesday, he is now 20th all-time in scoring for Maryland.
There’s a certain moxie that Trimble plays with that is hard to define. He exudes toughness and combines skills and confidence into one lethal package.
As the veteran voice on a team full of wet-behind-the ear freshmen, Trimble has done a lot of maturing over the last year. After flirting with the idea of declaring for the NBA draft last spring, Trimble came back to help these young Terrapins grow into the team they have become.
He has acted as a sage-like Yoda Jedi master mentoring young pupils. For a team with many question marks entering the season, Turgeon couldn’t be happier with how this season has played out.
Trimble has learned a lot in his two years in College Park. He also learned a great deal from former Maryland standouts, like Dez Wells, in his freshman season.
More from Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun on Trimble’s role as a leader:
“I think I’ve figured out my own way to do it,” Trimble said Monday after practice. “I kind of liked the way Dez did it, but I’m not that kind of person. My way is more calmer, it’s being myself, and I think my teammates respect that.
“Even Coach Turgeon said the other day, they listen to me more than they listen to him. I see it in practice, especially. It gave me a lot of confidence to be a better leader — in huddles, at halftime before the coaches come in.”
While Maryland is not likely to contend for a Final Four as it has the last two seasons, Trimble can enable this young group of Terps to appear in the NCAA Tournament once again. A return to the Sweet 16 is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, either.
With Trimble running the show, Turgeon knows he has the perfect floor leader to guide the Terps through the murky waters of the Big Ten. It’s a nice crutch Turgeon can lean on all season. It’s part of what makes Trimble so special, despite some of his flaws—like his 3.1 turnovers per game.
His clutch gene supersedes any of his flaws.
Given his talent, experience and moxie, there may be no point guard in the country quite as gifted and underappreciated as Trimble.