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Returning Diamond Stone to the bench could help Maryland's offensive struggles

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Even with Melo Trimble shooting poorly, the Terps should be better on offense.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball has dropped three of its past four games and is going through its worst stretch of the season just weeks before the NCAA tournament. It's clear things aren't right with the No. 10 and sliding-hard Terps, and something needs to change on offense.

This team is at its best when Melo Trimble is putting the ball in the basket, but the sophomore guard is currently battling through the worst shooting slump of his career. Still, his woes shouldn't be bringing Maryland down this much. This roster is too talented to have one player decide its fate.

On paper Maryland may have the best starting five in the country, but offensively the team hasn't connected. It's been that way all year, with the Terps pulling out wins by closer margins than they should have been.

Maryland is put together on defense, at least, as freshman center Diamond Stone came on quicker than expected, transfers Robert Carter Jr. and Rasheed Sulaimon have integrated into the system well, Trimble has improved and Jake Layman has been an anchor at times. The Terps sit No. 18 overall in Ken Pomeroy's defensive rankings, but only rank 36th on offense.

A lot goes back to Trimble, who is shooting 14-of-60 in his past six games, good for a dismal 23.3 percent from the field. He's tried shooting through that slump, as he's taken 10 or more shots in five of those games. That hasn't worked, but Maryland's offense should still be better than it is. There's so much scoring ability on this team that he shouldn't feel the pressure to snap the streak.

Trimble is shooting the worst percentage from the field among Maryland starters, but what was supposed to separate this season from the Terrapins' last was his new supporting cast, ending the heavy reliance the team placed on his and Dez Wells' scoring outputs. He now shares the court with four guys who could average 15-to-20 points on most other teams.

There are weapons around the much-improved passing point guard as teammates Sulaimon, Carter and Layman all rank in the top 175 nationally in true shooting percentage. Those three just haven't had enough of the ball to produce what they're capable of. What they've done, they've done in small doses.

Lost in the craze of Maryland's losing ways is the strong, but subtle output it's been getting elsewhere. While Trimble has been struggling, Layman has hit 22-of-36 field goals and Carter 27-of-50. The forwards have lost some touches as the season has progressed though, especially after the introduction of Stone into the starting lineup.

The center permanently joined the starting lineup at the end of January, making February his first full month as a starter. From month-to-month, Stone's shot attempts rose from 7.2 to 11 per game despite averaging just five more minutes.

Even with Stone missing a game due to a suspension, Carter went from taking 10 shots per game in January to 7.6 in February, and Layman went from 8.7 shots down to 5.9. Layman shot the best percentage from the field among all Terrapins players at 61 percent in February, but has seen his workload reduced drastically.

Returning Stone to his sixth man role could help even out Maryland's shot distribution and get the Terps' offense going early.

Stone is a possession-eater, so to most efficiently spend his time on the court, he needs the ball a lot. He leads the team in usage percentage and shots per 100 possessions by a good margin.

The ball tends to move a lot less with Stone on the court, as he only has nine assists on the season. Damonte Dodd, who's played 182 less minutes, has eight, and he touches the ball much less frequently. This isn't a knock on Stone's game; it's just the type of player he is. He may bring more value to the team coming off the bench, staggering his minutes with Carter.

With Stone off the floor, Maryland can focus its offense on four scorers, with Dodd as the defensive specialist who would be just as pleased with 10 rebounds as he would points.

The Terps' bench also needs a spark, as a shaky Jared Nickens is the only real scoring piece it has. Bringing he and Stone off the bench is logically sound too, as the offensive rebounder will be there to clean up the 3-point shooter's misses.

This is just one option to experiment with, but it's clear Maryland needs to do something different. As long as Melo Trimble is struggling, the offense as currently constructed isn't going to get the Terps where they want to be.

Maryland hasn't created a real offensive identity, so Trimble has remained the team's fallback option. He doesn't have to be.