It was no surprise that the Big Ten announced Melo Trimble as its player of the week Monday afternoon. Maryland’s junior guard could have claimed the honor with his performance in a win over Northwestern alone — he dazzled with a career-high 32 points — but he convinced the league further in a 71-60 loss to Wisconsin on Sunday. Trimble single-handedly carried the offensive load, finishing with 27 points despite not playing over the final 4:32.
The only void in Trimble’s week — he hit 21 of his 34 field goal attempts over the two games — was revealed by Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon on Tuesday. Turgeon had initially said his decision to pull Trimble on Sunday was to give the junior rest for the final four games of the regular season — a 10-day stretch that begins Wednesday night against Minnesota in College Park. In fact, the move was made because Trimble was struggling to rebound.
“I was disappointed in all of our guys. I don’t like to call them out in public,” said Turgeon, who also sat starters Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and Damonte Dodd over the final stretch of the game. “We weren’t rebounding. The guys that were sitting on the end of the bench the last four minutes, weren’t rebounding. And [Trimble] was one of them. Is that clear enough?”
Maryland (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten) was outrebounded 44-27 against the Badgers — the same margin by which Wisconsin outscored Maryland in the second half — which included a 18-5 disadvantage on the offensive glass. That spurred Turgeon to hold a meeting with Trimble and the rest of the team Monday to begin preparation for Minnesota (20-7, 8-6), one of league’s most physically imposing teams.
Maryland’s mandate to improve on the boards will be complicated by the absence of junior center Michal Cekovsky, who will miss the remainder of the season after fracturing his left ankle in the loss at Wisconsin.
The loss of Cekovsky — which will increase the workload of Dodd at center and force Turgeon to piece together depth in the frontcourt behind undersize role players Ivan Bender and LG Gill — hit Trimble and his teammates hard Monday. But the meeting also helped the junior reset and chart a course for the rest of the season with a few priorities in mind. Among them is to help his team with more rebounding production and to keep his body fresh for the postseason, something Trimble hasn’t been able to do in March over the past two years.
“We had a meeting yesterday just to talk about how we’re going to finish the season the right way. We can still try to win our league. And if not we’re going to get ready for the postseason,” Trimble said. “So in order for us to win games, we have to rebound and we didn’t do a good job of that” against Wisconsin.
Maryland ranks 11th in the 14-team Big Ten in rebounding margin (plus-0.8 per game) and has been outrebounded in nine of 14 league games this season, including 41-31 by Minnesota when the teams played in January. The issue reached a new low on Sunday afternoon in Madison. The team’s top three rebounders — Jackson (6.2 per game), Huerter (5.0) and Dodd (4.5) — all were subbed out by Turgeon before the three-minute mark in the second half after combining for just 11 boards.
Trimble finished with five rebounds, although he didn’t try to escape blame after the loss or in his meeting with reporters Tuesday. Though Trimble made 9 of 17 shots, including 4 of 7 three-pointers, against the Badgers, he was disappointed with parts of his performance. He missed 5 of 10 free throws (Maryland collectively shot 14 for 23, while Wisconsin made 21 for 37), including the front ends of two one-and-ones that signaled to Turgeon that Trimble was tired.
On the next two possessions, Wisconsin recorded three offensive boards, which led to two easy baskets that pushed the lead to 12. Trimble was pulled along with the rest of the core starters.
While the lack of rebounding factored into that decision, Turgeon reiterated Trimble’s workload as a priority Tuesday. He struggled late in the season each of the past two years with back and hamstring issues, but Turgeon was nonetheless forced to play Trimble more minutes. This season, Turgeon is trying to keep the junior guard as fresh as possible with the postseason just two weeks away.
The coach has kept Trimble out of more practices this season, while the guard has focused more on body maintenance with training staff. And Maryland has cultivated enough guard depth to give Trimble more rest. Trimble, who is averaging a career-low 31.6 minutes per game, has played 35 or more minutes just once in 14 Big Ten games this season. He had 13 such games during league play a year ago.
“I feel great compared how I felt two years ago,” Trimble said. “I feel a lot better. Just taking care of myself.”