University of Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon talks about the play of guard Melo Trimble against Northwestern University. (Baltimore Sun video)
Maryland junior guard Melo Trimble resembled his old, younger self Wednesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena, both in terms of the facial hair he didn't have and the shooting touch he always seems to have against Northwestern.
In the midst of a four-game shooting slump, Trimble took over early against the Wildcats, and wasn't finished until he had produced one of the more spectacular shooting performances of his career.
Trimble finished with a career-high 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-5 on 3-pointers, to lead the No. 23 Terps to a much-needed 74-64 victory over Northwestern.
"Melo's a great player, and he showed it tonight," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "I think great players should have a couple of games when they don't make shots, and we still win and he still does a lot of great things for us."
Turgeon said at halftime on the Big Ten Network telecast that Trimble, who hit five of seven shots in the first half, might have been spurred by stories about how poorly he was shooting. He came in having made just 16 of his previous 52 field-goal attempts (30.8 percent), including just 3-of-22 3-pointers (13.6 percent).
"I just told Melo to play with confidence," Turgeon said after the game. "He's got to have the confidence. I can't give it to him, his mom can't give it to him. He's got to have it. He's got to be borderline cocky out there, and I think he played that way a little tonight."
Asked about the negative comments regarding his recent shooting slump, Trimble said: "People are going to say what they're going to say; I'm just out here to play basketball and do whatever it takes to help the team win. Tonight was my night for shots to go down, to get a lot of points and we were able to win, so I'm happy. If my shot is not falling, I'm still happy if he win."
Trimble made his first shot — a 3-pointer — to give Maryland (22-4 overall, 10-3 Big Ten) an early 9-2 lead. After the lead nearly disappeared when Turgeon gave Trimble his first breather, the 6-foot-3 point guard came back in and hit three straight shots to help the Terps build their lead to as many as 11 points in the first half.
At the time, Northwestern point guard Bryant McIntosh was on the bench after picking up two fouls in the first 2:44. Trimble had also picked up an early foul.
"I could sense something with Melo tonight and I didn't want get him his second," Turgeon said. "I knew in the second half I was going to play him a lot of minutes, so the more rest I could get him early in the game, the better."
With Maryland leading by 10 at halftime, Trimble picked up where he left off, scoring twice on drives against 6-7 Vic Law and 6-6 Sanjay Lumpkin and then later adding a couple of deep 3-pointers as the Terps built their lead to 20 points in the second half.
"Once I saw that first shot go in, I knew it was going to be my game," said Trimble, who had a scruffy beard trimmed Monday in College Park and looked more like the fresh-faced freshman he was two years ago. "I just played within the system; I didn't try to force anything. I just took what the defense gave me."
Asked what the difference was compared to his recent stretch, Trimble said: "Just playing basketball. Just all year, I've been playing basketball — unfortunately couldn't make any shots — but tonight was my night, and I just kept playing."
It was the fourth straight time Maryland has beaten Northwestern (19-7, 8-5) since joining the Big Ten, and the fourth straight time Trimble has outplayed his counterpart, McIntosh, who finished with just nine points on 3-of-13 shooting (0-for-5 on 3s). Trimble is averaging more than 25 points per game against the Wildcats.
The victory might have been the most impressive, and one of the most important, of the season for the Terps. Playing without leading scorer Scottie Lindsey, who is still out with mononucleosis, Northwestern was coming off an upset of then-No. 7 Wisconsin in Madison on Sunday.
That is where Maryland will play Sunday. Now tied with Purdue, the Terps could also find themselves tied with the Badgers, who are 10-2 going into Thursday's game at Michigan.
The victory over Northwestern was the sixth in seven road games in the Big Ten this season, the 10th in 11 games overall away from home.
Turgeon said his team's road success began after the Terps lost at home to Nebraska and faced Michigan in Ann Arbor in early January.
"We had to have the Michigan game and we played like we did today — we were locked in," Turgeon said. "It's carried over. Our guys have felt really comfortable on the road. There was just one time [at Penn State last week] when we didn't have the energy to be successful. We have some guys that are tough mentally, and it shows on the road."
On Wednesday, the Terps also had Trimble, who was his old, self, both in terms of hairstyle and heroics.