On the opening day of the NFL playoffs, Maryland's Melo Trimble spent four hours as one of the top trending topics on Twitter in the United States on Saturday after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Terrapins a 63-60 win over Wisconsin. Trimble matched Wisconsin's entire team with 13 points in the final nine minutes, and broke the hearts of Badger fans.
The Terps are off to their best start in school history through 16 games at 15-1 – for reference, Maryland went 13-3 before winning the National Championship in 2002– and though they're a balanced scoring group, this year's team owes much of its success to its point guard.
Trimble has a different aura about him this season, carrying the same professional poise that made him a unique freshman a year ago, but he's now fully accepted his superstar role – no longer leaning on the shoulders of his now-graduated counterpart Dez Wells.
He stepped up to the plate in Madison without hesitation, drilling an NBA-range bomb to seal the game on the road off an isolation play drawn up entirely in his own head. Coach Mark Turgeon elected not to call timeout and instead trusted in the natural instincts of his team's most talented scorer, who did not disappoint.
Trimble didn't just show up for the hero shot. He's been there for the Terps all season, having improved on his critics' target areas from last year.
He's fit perfectly into Maryland's new balanced scoring attack. Trimble maintains the team lead in points per game and has vastly improved his assist numbers.
Before the season, there were legitimate questions about Trimble's ability as a distributor. He's put to rest most of those concerns as a sophomore, as he's almost doubled his assists per game average from last season. His assist rate has risen by more than 10 points while his turnover rate has only gone up by two as he's aided in producing career years for several of his teammates. Though it may not all be directly related to Trimble, all five of Maryland's starters are shooting career-best numbers from the field.
He's done this all while still leading the team in points per game and improving his shooting percentage by four points. He's led or tied for the team lead in scoring in seven games this season, and is running a more comfortable offense where he isn't overworked. This has decreased the chances he's had to get to the line, as his free throw attempts per game is down by 2.2 due to the more distributed offensive workload. As he's adjusted to a team that included five capable scorers, Trimble's usage rate has decreased by three points from last season, but the rest of his production hasn't.
Maryland's national title aspirations have spread outside the minds of the DMV and the school's alumni. With New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz now on board the Trimble train, the Terps' star guard could become a fan-favorite in March, one nationally televised game-winning contested three at a time.