Melo Trimble's best game of the young season wasn't enough to put Maryland over North Carolina at the Dean Dome on Tuesday night. The Terps fell to the Tar Heels 89-81, but Trimble's 23-point, 12-assist performance left Maryland fans with something to savor after the Dean Dome had emptied and Scott Van Pelt had finished hosting SportsCenter on a more somber note than usual.
Trimble hit 8 of 14 field goal attempts, good for a 75.1 percent true shooting percentage, including 4 of 5 from deep. He scored 17 points and dished 6 assists in the second half alone, battling with UNC's Marcus Paige in what could go down as Maryland's most exciting game of the season.
"Melo's a winner," said coach Mark Turgeon. "Guy's incredible."
In the second half, Trimble scored or assisted on 31 of the Terrapins' 46 points and completely took over the reigns of the offense after looking completely rattled early. North Carolina pushed the pace from the get-go, forcing players out of their comfort zones and making them take some shots they don't usually take. Trimble's controlled and collected effort steadied the Terrapins towards a late-game comeback before the Tar Heels ultimately pulled away.
In the process of carrying Maryland's offense, Trimble put North Carolina guard Nate Britt on skates with a crossover in the second half.
North Carolina had a guard who was equal to Trimble in almost every way. Paige didn't have any semblance of rust in his season debut after missing the team's first six games with a right wrist injury. He and Trimble exchanged 3-pointers twice within no more than 13 seconds or less in the second half. Paige finished the game with a team-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting with 5 assists and just 1 turnover in 34 minutes.
Paige's scoring and passing may not have exceeded what Trimble did, but his ability to take care of the ball did.
The Tar Heels' traps and double-teams gave Trimble trouble at the start, causing him to turn the ball over four times in the game's first 12 minutes. Trimble's early performance was reminiscent of his stint on Team USA in the Pam Am Games, where he was overwhelmed by the length and pressure of opposing defenses. This was part of the reason Maryland dug itself into a hole early, trailing by 13 points with just over 7 minutes remaining in the first half.
"In the first half I was a little bit tight out there," said Trimble. "I was too worried about all the hype and the fans and I didn't let the game come to me until towards the end of the second half."
North Carolina was aggressive early, giving an early-December matchup a taste of what March may have to offer.
"I thought he got tackled on 4 of his 8 turnovers," said Turgeon. "So 12 assists, 4 turnovers is the way I look at it."
Either way, it was a promising night for the sophomore, who earned a new career high in assists and stepped up in the team's biggest non-conference game of the season. Maryland may have lost, but Trimble's complete takeover after recovering from an early struggle on the road against one of the top teams in the nation was a very encouraging sign for the Terrapins.