Saturday wasn’t technically Senior Day for Melo Trimble, but informally, it might have been.
His three-pointer on Maryland basketball’s final possession gave the Terps a 63-60 win over Michigan State, and secured them a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. It also could end up being the last shot he takes in a game at Xfinity Center.
Trimble deflected any talk after the game about whether or not he’ll return for his senior season or depart for the NBA, but that doesn’t make the topic any less relevant. If it was indeed his final home game as a Terp, he couldn’t have ended it any better than this.
Late-game scenarios can be an excellent chances for playmakers like Trimble to flourish. After Michigan State fumbled away its chance to take the lead, Turgeon called a timeout. He didn’t have to give detailed instructions, but he had a plan. Trimble decided to call an audible.
“I told Melo to drive it. He shot the three. He made it. I’m really happy for him,” Turgeon said.
Trimble rarely displays overwhelming confidence, and never arrogance. Reporters faced Trimble with the reality that he didn’t heed his coach’s wishes. In response, he brought up his buzzer-beater over Wisconsin last year.
“I’m 2-for-2 when he tells me to drive the ball,” Trimble said with a chuckle. “I didn’t hear him say that. I heard him say, ‘try to get to the basket and try to find an open teammate,’ but I kind of blocked that out and said, ‘shoot a three.’”
It was the latest highlight for one of the best Maryland players of all time. His shot didn’t just bring a happy end to what’s possibly his final regular season at Maryland. It enabled Damonte Dodd, the team’s only four-year senior, and L.G. Gill, who transferred to play one season for the Terps, to go out at Xfinity Center on a high note. He allowed us to see a teary-eyed Mark Turgeon after the game. Maryland’s usually composed coach was in rare form after his team finished the season 24-7.
“It’s just been an amazing year,” Turgeon told reporters, voice trembling. “When the year starts, you’re thinking [Michal Cekovsky] is gonna be a big part of what you do. You’re thinking Dion [Wiley]’s going to be a big part of what you do, and they’re not.”
Turgeon had to rely on three freshmen this season, but more than anything, he had to rely on Trimble. Once again on Saturday, his guard delivered. Trimble finished with a solid line: 16 points on 15 shots, six rebounds and two assists. It wasn’t the best game he’s played this season, but it didn’t need to be. He came through when it mattered, and saved his team from an upset. A win like this is as good a time as any for reflection, and Turgeon was all about it.
“Think about where we were before Melo got here. Think about it, guys,” Maryland’s coach pleaded with reporters. “17-14 or 17-15 or whatever we were. We won a lot since, so I’m really happy for him. Everything’s on his plate. Three freshmen, everything’s on his plate. I kept going to him.
“He’s just a great kid. He hasn’t changed one bit. He’s humble. He loves his teammates. What really helped as we started to build the lead the second time was that he started giving the ball up. He made some threes and helped his teammates.”
Trimble’s fate after this season is up in the air. Maryland’s made it no secret that it wants him back, but he’ll have to do what’s best for him. That could very well mean leaving for the NBA. He shied away from making any proclamations about this possibly being his final home game.
Before he moves on to make that decision, Trimble has the Big Ten Tournament to look forward to. The Terps’ next opponent won’t be revealed until Thursday night. They’ll play their next actual game Friday night, and that could come against this same Michigan State team.
That’d be Trimble’s seventh game against Spartans head coach Tom Izzo, who has had a front-row seat to the Trimble show for three years. He offered praise in his typical, eccentric fashion.
“I respect what he’s done,” Izzo said. “I didn’t want to say hello to him in the line because I was mad at him for what he did to me, but I also respected it, so I told him I was proud of him.”