Playing in Madison Square Garden for the first time, Maryland sophomore Melo Trimble channeled his inner Melo.
With some 40 NBA scouts attending the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night, Trimble said he kept one of his favorite NBA players in mind.
"I didn't think about, it was kind of hard playing, I had never played in the mecca before," he said. "I just thought about Carmelo Anthony the whole time and I was good."
Trimble's 25-point performance in No. 6 Maryland's 76-66 win over Connecticut was more reminiscent of some of his own from last season. He went to the free-throw line 15 times and made 14 shots to help the 8-1 Terps hold off the Huskies' second-half comeback.
The only free-throw attempt he missed was on one of the two he took after Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie was assessed a technical foul with 2:49 left after the Huskies had cut Maryland's 20-point first half lead and 18-point second half lead to three points early in the second half.
After Connecticut's Jalen Adams fouled Trimble on the inbounds pass, Ollie reacted in frustration, turning his back to the court and swiping at some papers on the scorer's table next to his bench. As the papers went airborne, Ollie was T'd up.
Ollie didn't think the technical affected the outcome as much as Maryland's fast start, which was led by Trimble, freshman Diamond Stone and great overall defense.
"That was the tale of the game," said Ollie, whose 5-3 Huskies had similar issues in losses to Syracuse and Gonzaga.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon disagreed, acknowleding that the technical "helped stem the tide for us" by slowing down the Huskies and quieting the pro-Connecticut crowd of 19,812 enough for the Terps to get the victory.
Ollie gave a lot of credit to Stone, whom he tried to recruit out of high school last year. Stone scored 12 of his 16 points, tying his career high, and six of his career-high nine rebounds in the first half. Maryland outrebounded Connecticut, 45-24, including 31 defensive rebounds, while limiting the Huskies to six offensive boards.
Though Stone made 6 of 16 shots from the field — three of his shots were blocked, including two on back-to-back possessions possessions — Maryland's lone freshman played well.
"He played aggressive," said Ollie, whose team blocked nine total shots. "He loved the moment. He's an outstanding basketball player, but even a better person. They did a good job highlighting him and getting him some post-ups. Then he was getting to the basket."
In the end, Stone's teammates did the same. After shooting 3-for-10 on 3-point attempts in the first half, yet still taking a 16-point lead into halftime, the Terps attempted just four 3-pointers in the second half and missed all of them as the Huskies made 6 of 12 attempts in the half to mount their comeback.
Maryland fed off Trimble's lead in getting to the basket down the stretch, with Rasheed Sulaimon, Robert Carter Jr. and Jake Layman all scoring on drives. Perhaps the nicest play came when Trimble fed Carter on the right side of the basket. Carter then dished a no-look pass to Damonte Dodd for a dunk.
Ollie, a former NBA point guard, thought that Maryland won that battle. [Former Terps commit Sterling Gibbs finished with 12 points and no assists.]
"Melo controlled the game,"Ollie said.
Trimble's performance came four days after he scored a season-low three points in a 41-point blowout of Saint Francis at Xfinity Center. Trimble had seven assists in the game and barely looked at the basket.
Asked about the difference in the two games, Trimble said, "Just me playing basketball and sacrificing for the team. When I had three points the last game, I thought my teammates were doing a really good job of scoring. It wasn't my night to score a lot of points to pull out the win.
"Tonight was my night to score a lot of points and we won, so I am just doing whatever it takes to help the team win."