Maryland's junior guard Melo Trimble talks about hitting the winning shot against Michigan State. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has had a front-row seat witnessing the three-year evolution of Maryland guard MeloTrimble. And sometimes it has been painful for the Hall of Famer to watch.
Certainly the most difficult moment for Izzo came in Saturday’s 63-60 loss to Maryland at Xfinity Center. Trimble hit the game-winner, a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left that some Terps fans called “Revenge For KorieLucious.”
Though not as significant as the Lucious’ 3-pointer to knock the Terps out of the 2010 NCAA tournament — coming after one of his Michigan State teammates ducked on a pass from Draymond Green — Trimble’s trey was agony for Izzo.
It also showed how much Izzo has become a fan of Trimble over the years.
“Hats off for him for sticking around and making sure he got better each year,” Izzo said. “I think the job he’s done with those [three freshman starters] is something that I really appreciate being in the Big Ten, actually being in college basketball.”
Trimble acknowledged the fans after hitting the shot by facing them and billowing the top of his jersey toward them. He heard the “One more year, one more year” chants, but said the idea of having played his last home game wasn’t in his head.
“I was focused on the win,” said Trimble, who led the Terps with 16 points, including 10 in the second half. “We had lost two straight here [to Minnesota and Iowa]. That was a bad feeling. Just to come out here and get a win off a buzzer-beater means a lot to me, and my teammates are very happy for me. I’m just happy that we won this game.”
In a strange way, Izzo was glad that it was Trimble who had beaten the Spartans.
“The guy made a hell of a shot,” Izzo said. “I have no second-guesses. [Spartans guard LourawlsNairn Jr.] did exactly what he should do. A great player hit a great shot from 25 feet.”
The game-winner was the latest in what has been an interesting history for Trimble against the Spartans.
As a freshman playing in his first-ever Big Ten game, Trimble overcame a poor shooting night that included missing 11 of 13 shots overall and seven of eight 3-pointers to make 12 of 14 free throws in a 68-66 double-overtime road win.
That night, Izzo complained about the Terps’ burgeoning star being a little Melo-dramatic in the way he drew fouls, particularly how he jerked his head at what the Spartans coach thought was minimal contact.
“Touchy-feely stuff,” Izzo said after the game.
A few weeks later, Izzo watched as Trimble scored 21 of his 24 points in the first half of a 16-point Maryland win, including a step-back 3-pointer right before the halftime horn that was set up by a nasty crossover dribble that caused Nairn to fall down.
That day, Izzo called Trimble “the straw that stirs the drink.”
The Spartans won the next three meetings against the Terps, including in the semifinals of the past two Big Ten tournaments. Except for the first half of its semifinal victory over Maryland in 2015 in Chicago, Michigan State had kept Trimble in check.
It seemed as if the same pattern was continuing Saturday. After a quiet first half, Trimble finally heated up, hitting two straight jumpers during a 14-4 run that gave the Terps an eight-point lead.
As the Spartans erased the deficit and eventually took the lead, Trimble seemed to press. He missed four shots prior to the game-winner, including a pair of layups in traffic and a 3-pointer. It was reminiscent of what happened in previous close home losses to Nebraska and Purdue this season.
Not that Trimble ever wavered, crediting his own confidence and having a coach in Maryland’s Mark Turgeon “that believes in you.”
Izzo noticed a difference between this year’s heroics and what Trimble did as a freshman.
“A lot more mature,” Izzo said. “The head-wagging is gone; he doesn’t get as many fouls. He’s more of a man to me. He takes it right at you. … It’s kind of fun when you see in this day and age, somebody actually grow. It’s going to benefit him.
"He'd probably be playing in the D-League somewhere [had he left school after his sophomore year], doing this and that. Now he gives himself a better chance [of making the NBA]. I'm not promoting it one way or the other. I respect what he's done."
Izzo joked about his post-game meeting with Trimble in the handshake line.
“I didn’t want to say hello to him in the line because I was mad at him for what he did to me, but I also respected it, so I told him I was proud of him,” Izzo said with a smile.
Told of some of Izzo’s other comments, Trimble seemed humbled.
“It means a lot,” Trimble said. “I’ve played against him three years, and before college I’d always hear about Michigan State and Coach Izzo. The first time we played in front of him, I was really nervous. I’ve grown as a player and got mature. Still nervous to this day. … Just to hear him praise me like that means a lot to me.”