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Maryland basketball's loss to North Carolina built confidence within unfamiliar backcourt

Something "just clicked" for Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon in Maryland's only loss of the season.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball very well could have been sitting atop the Associated Press Poll for its first No. 1 ranking in program history had the Terps limited turnovers and beat North Carolina at the Dean Dome two weeks ago. Kentucky, then sitting at No. 1, fell to UCLA two days after then-No. 2 Maryland's loss.

The winnable game is the Terps' only blemish on an otherwise clean non-conference schedule, which features seven double-digit victories, including one against Connecticut, a top-25 KenPom team, on an away-feeling neutral court at Madison Square Garden.

The stain of what could have been can't be wiped off, so Maryland is instead wearing it in style.

"It kind of just clicked one day," said Rasheed Sulaimon. "That North Carolina game was a great start. Even though we lost that game, I thought me and [Melo Trimble] really found that point where we can really play with each other, and we knew we had a great backcourt to help the rest of the team be successful as well."

Maryland's identified that its lead guards can be there to carry the offensive load when called upon, but they don't have to put up the scoring numbers Trimble and his previous counterpart Dez Wells were expected to on a nightly basis.

Sulaimon hasn't scored more than 8 points in a game since his 18 against the Tar Heels. Trimble tied his career-low of 3 points in a blowout win against Saint Francis. The guards have instead held a point of emphasis to get the talent around them more involved, and both players have capitalized, setting new career-bests in assists in the past four games.

"A balanced offense is probably the toughest offense to prepare and defend against, and that's what we're working towards," said Sulaimon.

Strapped with confidence from its primary ball-handlers, Maryland has had incredible output from its big men. Diamond Stone is averaging 13.3 points over three games following the loss in North Carolina, and Robert Carter Jr. is averaging 12 over the same stretch. The Terps have weapons all over, and they're playing to their full potential when guided by their star-studded backcourt.

"I think I'm a helluva passer," said Sulaimon. "If I see something, I think I have the capabilities to get it there no matter how small the window may be."

There's a special zing to the tranfers senior's passing abilities, evidenced in his 10-assist night against UMES, and it's been visible to coach Mark Turgeon and Trimble since the summer.

"He throws a lot of, not questionable passes, but passes that I know if I would've thrown it, coach Turgeon would have been like ‘what are you doing?'" said Trimble. "But Rasheed does anyway and that's how I think he gets his confidence."

The leap in Sulaimon's play-making abilities has been key to Maryland's offensive output, even though the senior refers to Trimble as the "head of the snake."

The confidence is rubbing off on his sophomore companion though, who flashed an unprecedented smile before draining his second consecutive shot from 3-point range off an extra pass made by his new teammate against UMES.

"I was feeling it," said Trimble. "I had hit one and I knew when Rasheed got the ball he was gonna make one more pass, just to get his assists up. As I caught it I knew I was gonna make it so I was pretty excited."

The Terrapins are molding as a unit quickly, and league play has yet to begin.