For Maryland basketball to win games in March, it needs Melo Trimble to put on the type of show he did in the Terps’ 10-point win over a tournament-bound Northwestern team on the road.
We’re often soft on Trimble, who does so many things so well, and still stands among of the nation’s premier guards. But his numbers have sunk since his freshman year, and he’s yet to take the leap from Player of the Year candidate to contender.
On Wednesday night, Trimble channeled his 19-year-old self both aesthetically and physically, as the newly de-bearded baller ravaged Northwestern’s defense for 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting.
Against the Wildcats, Trimble went into God Mode for the first time in two years. The junior’s always been great, but hasn’t returned to the conversation of being among the elites like Lonzo Ball, Frank Mason and Monte Morris.
He improved as a passer and defender over the past two seasons, but as he worked on his flaws, some of his strengths dipped. He lost his sharpshooting edge and his turnover rate shot up. But the whole package came together for a night, and it was magical.
Trimble’s onslaught Wednesday was one of the best performances we’ve seen from any player in the nation this season. He found his way into the paint off the dribble, like usual, but also moved as well as he ever has without the ball and ran defenders into screens. He was a rim-running assassin who sliced his way into the lane for 16 of his points on 8-of-12 shooting.
He complemented the inside attack with range that mixed what he instinctively carried from high school, shooting off the dribble, with what has defined his past few months: playing off the ball. Trimble didn’t have to create his own shots every trip down court. With time and space he caught and shot as a true shooting guard, going 4-of-5 from deep.
That balance is everything coach Mark Turgeon could’ve dreamed of from his best player. The excuses aren’t there anymore, as Trimble is now surrounded by the right type of talent to help him grow into one of the league’s most unstoppable scorers. The ball doesn’t have to stay in his hands for long periods of time anymore; he doesn’t have to exert unnecessary energy, and he can focus on putting the ball through the net.
In Jaylen Brantley, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, Turgeon unexpectedly has the type of personnel that can take pressure off Trimble’s workload and push Maryland into a deep tournament run.
Trimble is an unheard-of commodity in a league which often sees its top talent exit as quickly as it enters. He’s the type of talent that doesn’t ever land in College Park, and is also the difference between this year’s Maryland team being remembered as a mere overachieving group to one that can hang a new banner from the rafters at Xfinity.
Midway through February, the Terps’ record warrants they be taken seriously. This isn’t a fun team waiting to regress to the law of close-win averages anymore. It’s a group with the type of firepower to do what its super team couldn’t a year ago.
The Terps are 22-4, and the win over the Wildcats was a big one. Now they’ll need a repeat performance to dethrone a Final Four-contender Wisconsin team on the road, possibly en route capturing a Big Ten title.
But winning big games can’t be the expectation unless Trimble finds similar consistency to what he displayed against Northwestern, through March. Otherwise this season will go down as “just” a great year for Turgeon’s program with no memorabilia to show.