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Melo Trimble showing growth as a leader for Terps this season

In the moments after Maryland's last-minute comeback win over Georgetown at Verizon Center early this season, the Terps celebrated with an impromptu water bottle shower of their coach in the locker room.

As Mark Turgeon toweled off, a voice emerged through the tumult. It has helped define what some thought might be a rebuilding year for a team that had lost four starters after reaching the Sweet 16 last season.

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Junior guard Melo Trimble addressed his teammates.

It was something he had seen others, most notably Dez Wells when Trimble was a freshman, as well as Robert Carter Jr. and even Rasheed Sulaimon do last season in similar circumstances. No one could recall Trimble ever taking such a leading role off the court.

As he has helped navigate a team with three freshman starters to a 14-2 record (2-1 in the Big Ten) going into Tuesday's home game against Indiana (11-5, 1-2), Trimble has embraced the role of team leader better than many imagined.

"I think I've figured out my own way to do it," Trimble said Monday after practice. "I kind of liked the way Dez did it, but I'm not that kind of person. My way is more calmer, it's being myself, and I think my teammates respect that.

"Even Coach Turgeon said the other day, they listen to me more than they listen to him. I see it in practice, especially. It gave me a lot of confidence to be a better leader — in huddles, at halftime before the coaches come in."

It was most evident in Saturday's 77-70 road win at Michigan, when Trimble didn't allow his early shooting struggles to impact the team's performance.

Before Turgeon and his assistants talked to the players at halftime, Trimble did the same, encouraging freshman forward Justin Jackson to drive more, as well as wings Kevin Huerter and Jared Nickens to keep shooting.

"I think he's really matured," Turgeon said. "He didn't get frustrated the other day, and he handled everything great. In the second half he made big-time plays for us."

"What he did was is he really trusted his teammates. …Melo's a winner; he's always figured out a way to win. I think he feels really comfortable with this group. He did what he had to do to help us win."

Trimble, who scored just two points in the first half and missed eight of his first 10 shots, wound up with 13 points after hitting three of his last five from the field, to go along with six rebounds and four assists.

"The way the game was going at first, I could have fell into the sink and said, 'Oh, it's not my game' and just put my head down," Trimble said. "I decided to put the team first and just continue to play."

Motivated by a personal pep talk from Turgeon — who called him "one of the toughest guys" he'd ever coached — as well as some less-than-flattering comments from Michigan students sitting courtside at the Crisler Center, Trimble helped erased the memory of last year's road loss to the Wolverines.

"When we went into halftime, I was thinking about that as well, like, 'Maybe I just don't play well here at Michigan,'" said Trimble, who had scored a career-low two points on 1-of-7 shooting in a 70-67 loss.

"I remember what [former graduate assistant] John Auslander told me last year: the first half wasn't my half, but the second half was going to be my half. The second half last year, even if I didn't score, I was still making plays for others."

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That has been a big part of Trimble's evolution as a college player.

The magic dust that seemed to be sprinkled on Trimble as freshman disappeared during the heart of the Big Ten season last year as a sophomore. Now, he looks older, stronger and more self-assured.

It's not just in the chiseled upper body or the facial hairs that have semi-circled his chin. It's not just in the way Trimble can look reporters squarely in the eye after giving so many no-look quotes two years ago.

Simply because of the makeup of Maryland's starting lineup and his own maturity, Trimble is a much better leader than he was a year ago. It also helps to have players with such well-rounded games around him.

"With the young guys coming along and the way they're coming so fast and just playing the way they're capable of playing, it puts a lot of pressure on the other team," said Trimble, who is averaging a career-high 17.5 points a game.

College basketball television analyst Dan Bonner, who has seen Trimble's career from the beginning, said that the nagging hamstring injury that greatly impacted Trimble's performance last season should not to be overlooked in the player's development.

"He was hurt last year and when you're hurt it's difficult to develop," Bonner said. "The injury prevented him from moving forward in the direction that you would want to. ...Clearly, with this particular team, he's the guy and he knows he's the guy."

In helping the Terps score on 10 of their last 11 possessions in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Trimble seemed to orchestrate, whether he was at the point or on the wing.

On one key possession with the Terps holding a 66-62 lead, Trimble attracted a double-team and initiated a play that ended with freshman wing Kevin Huerter hitting a wide-open corner 3-pointer.

Huerter, Cowan and Jackson all made big plays for Maryland down the stretch.

"I think everyone's getting to the point where they're trusting teammates more," Huerter said Monday. "Yesterday, in film [study], Coach even talked about that."

A year ago, the Terps resorted at times to what basketball purists would derisively call "hero ball" late in games. And last week, Trimble missed two shots in the final seven seconds of a home loss to Nebraska. But the junior guard sees a difference in the way the team is playing.

"This year, everyone pretty much wants to win. It doesn't matter who's scoring; everyone's going to create for others," he said.

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