With O’Connell down one in the final moments of Tuesday’s season opener against Gonzaga, the crowd, the Eagles and Melo Trimble himself knew that the All-Met guard would be tasked with taking the critical shot. What Trimble didn’t know as he nodded at the crowd after his three-point dagger swished through the net was that three seconds remained for Gonzaga to respond.
“I thought the clock was about to hit zero,” Trimble said, “so I guess I started celebrating a little too early because then I realized there was a lot of time left.”
So much time that the teams again traded points, only this time, when Trimble converted two free throws after drawing a foul with 0.2 seconds left, he was free to celebrate with a 75-73 victory in Arlington.
Trimble finished with 33 points, including the team’s last nine, to rally the Knights after they fell behind by five in the final minute.
“I think we started feeling sorry for ourselves a little late in the game when some things weren’t falling,” Knights Coach Joe Wootten said. “But we just keep telling everyone to keep believing in your teammates . . . and it doesn’t hurt having Melo, either.”
O’Connell controlled the game at the outset. Trimble and Jamaal King (24 points) helped the Knights score in transition and get to the free throw line. Gonzaga also created scoring opportunities, but several close shots rimmed out and the Eagles shot just 4 for 15 from the foul line in the first half.
After O’Connell extended its lead to 40-32 early in the third quarter, Gonzaga found a spark in Sam Miller. Hampered by foul trouble in the first half, Miller slashed to the rim for two buckets during a 10-0 run that gave Gonzaga its first lead midway through the third period.
Freshman guard Chris Lykes (19 points) helped the Eagles maintain their advantage by hitting several big shots, but King kept O’Connell in contention with strong drives to the lane, including a three-point play that cut the deficit to 67-66 with 90 seconds left.
Two Gonzaga putbacks pushed the lead to five, but Trimble took over from there. As the team broke its huddle at the foul line following the third of his four straight free throws, Trimble gave his teammates a simple command.
“I knew the game would come down to one shot, so I told them to give me the ball and I’m going to get us the win,” Trimble said.
While it appeared his three-pointer from the right side would deliver his promise, Lykes drew a foul while racing downcourt on the ensuing possession. The freshman calmly hit two free throws to tie the game at 73, but Gonzaga’s euphoria turned to exasperation as Trimble drew a foul with 0.2 seconds left.