“He said that he’d rather shoot 1-of-34 than 1-of-4, because if you go 1-of-4 and you’re a shooter, that means you’ve lost confidence,” Trimble said after going 5-for-13 but hit a key 3-pointer on the last of six long-range attempts, to help beat Ohio State in Columbus on Jan. 31. “As a shooter, you never want to lose confidence.”
In the team's two most recent games, Trimble shot a combined 21-for-34 overall against Northwestern and Wisconsin, including 8-for-12 on 3-pointers. Trimble scored 59 points over the two games – with a career-high 32 against the Wildcats – to earn Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday.
So how was Trimble’s confidence going into Wednesday’s matchup against Minnesota at Xfinity Center?
“It just grows. I have a lot more confidence,” Trimble said before practice Tuesday. “It’s not even just about me, it’s about getting my other teammates going because I know I can’t win games by myself. I’m going to need the freshmen to do better. They’re going to do better because they’re confident as well.”
Trimble did depend on the freshmen in Maryland’s 85-78 win over the Gophers on Jan. 28 in Minneapolis. After a 19-1 run by Minnesota put the Terps down by double digits in the first half, Trimble got freshmen Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter going in the second half.
Jackson finished with a career-high 28 points while Huerter added 19 points. Trimble did most of his work down the stretch, finishing with 13 points, nine assists and no turnovers.
Trimble knows that he can’t continue to be a one-man scoring show, as he was in the past two games, if the Terps are going to continue to be successful. Part of it has been the fact that Jackson, Huerter and fellow freshman Anthony Cowan seem to have hit a bit of a wall, at least offensively, in terms of their consistent contribution.
“It’s very important for us to just get better as a team,” Trimble said.
Yet just as then-senior Dez Wells helped carry the Terps in February two years ago, when Trimble was a freshman, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has asked Trimble to do that this season with four regular-season games before next month’s Big Ten tournament in Washington.
Turgeon didn’t have to tell Trimble anything Feb. 15 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Spurred by some pregame stories about how poorly he was shooting, as well as Northwestern students' chants of “D-League, D-League, ” Trimble was his old, dominant self.
It continued well into the second half at Wisconsin, until he appeared to tire. He missed the front end of two straight one-and-ones with a little over six minutes to go.
“I just think he was feeling it, he was feeling it both games,” Turgeon said. “It was good to see. The Northwestern game he was terrific offensively and we were really good defensively as a team. Both games he was just getting a feel for how it goes, and if he’s hot he keeps being aggressive, and if he’s not he’ll get others involved.”
Said senior forward L.G. Gill: “When Melo’s hot, we trust him and we allow him to do the things that he is doing. He’s not playing selfish; it’s in the flow of the game. When he gets hot, we want to keep feeding him more. By him scoring, it can help the other players get their offense going as well.”
One thing is clear after watching Trimble struggle a bit during the second half of each of the past two seasons – he is healthier than he has been in a long time.
“I feel great compared to how I felt two years ago, just with back injuries and hamstring,” Trimble said. “Just taking care of myself, doing extra treatment with [director of basketball performance Kyle Tarp] and [head trainer Matt Charvat], and just sitting out of practice a little bit more and being a leader on the sideline.”
Turgeon can tell the difference.
“He does seem fresher,” Turgeon said. “He’s smarter in how he approaches things. You could never get him out of practice his first year or his second year. Now I’ll say, ‘Melo, you need to take a break.’ He’ll take a break during practice. He’s handling that a lot better. Doing a lot of things better … and he’s really playing his best basketball of the year right now.”