Melo Trimble’s three-year career at Maryland has been a blur of big games and big shots, coinciding with the team’s turnaround from a middle-of-the pack wannabe in the Atlantic Coast Conference to a perennial contender in the Big Ten.
Though the Terps have still yet to claim their first conference title under coach Mark Turgeon, Trimble has provided his share of highlights. The junior guard added another Saturday at Xfinity Center, in much the same way he did as a sophomore playing against Wisconsin.
In fact, it nearly followed the same script, down to the final score.
Told by Turgeon to drive to the basket in the waning seconds of a tie game against Michigan State, Trimble pulled up from about 25 feet on the left wing and buried a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to give the Terps a 63-60 victory and a double-bye in next week’s Big Ten tournament in Washington.
The victory gives Maryland (24-7, 12-6 Big Ten) some momentum going into Verizon Center, where the Terps will be the No. 3 seed. It marks the fifth time Trimble provided the winning points in the final 30 seconds this season.
Just as he did at Kohl Center last season in hitting the first game-winning shot of his career — a straightaway 28-footer with 1.2 seconds left as the 30-second clock was about to expire for another 63-60 win — Trimble had a different idea about what to do with the last shot than Turgeon.
“I didn’t hear him say that. I heard him say to try to get to the basket and try to find an open teammate if I couldn’t do it. I kind of blocked that out and said, ‘Shoot a 3,’” Trimble said, chuckling at the play that started under the Michigan State basket after a Maryland timeout with 6.9 seconds remaining.
Asked if he passed up the drive because he wasn’t drawing many fouls going to the basket, Trimble said, “I wasn’t getting calls all game, so I just let it go. … I think of myself as a great shooter. Obviously I couldn’t make every shot. I felt in a rhythm and I made it.”
It turned out to be the only points scored by either team after Michigan State freshman forward Nick Ward tied the score at 60 with 3:11 remaining.
Before Trimble’s shot, Ward couldn’t handle a rushed bounce pass from freshman guard Cassius Winston as the 30-second clock was about to expire. Ward had led the Spartans back from an eight-point deficit, 43-35, to take the lead with an 11-2 run.
After Trimble’s shot, freshman star Miles Bridges caught a 70-foot inbounds pass and missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Ward led Michigan State (18-13, 10-8) with 22 points and 16 rebounds, while Bridges finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. Trimble led the Terps with 16 points. Freshman forward Justin Jackson added 15. Each had six rebounds.
Trimble’s shot set off a wild celebration among the announced sellout crowd in attendance on senior day, many of whom chanted, “One more year, one more year” at the team’s star. It prompted an equally joyous response from the Terps a week after they were booed off the court after a 14-point loss to Iowa.
“What a difference a week makes,” Turgeon said. “We’re in here Saturday night, the world’s coming to an end. Right? ... We’re fired up. We’re going into D.C. We don’t have to get on a plane. We get two days off because we don’t have to play until Friday. Hopefully we can get a lot better between now and Friday.”
Trimble, who was noncommittal about next season, said that Saturday’s shot “ranked first” among his career highlights.
Asked what makes a player as clutch as he has been throughout his career, Trimble said, “Just being confident and believing in yourself. Coach Turgeon believed in me. He went to me three straight times and the first two times I couldn’t buy the basket. The last time I was able to make the 3.”
Said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, “I think we defended it as well as we wanted to defend it. … A great player made a great play. He made a great shot. That’s what veteran guys do. That’s exactly what I told my team. I just don’t have one of those. Give him credit.”
Reminded that he once called Trimble as a freshman the “straw the stirred the drink” for Maryland after scoring 24 points in a 16-point win for the Terps at home, Izzo amended that statement.
“He stirred it, made it and drank it,” Izzo said. “He does all of it now.”
Turgeon was emotional talking about Trimble.
“It’s just great, man,” he said. “Think about where we were before Melo got here, [17-15]. We’ve won a lot since. I’m just really happy for him. Everything’s on his plate. Three freshman [starters]. I kept going to him. He couldn’t finish. I was just so happy for him."