Maryland’s Melo Trimble was one of the last players to leave the Xfinity Center court on Saturday afternoon, working alone at one end of the arena after practice. He hoisted a series of three-pointers and free throws as a couple of team managers rebounded, helping the sophomore point guard prepare for Sunday’s game against Michigan.
Trimble shed his yellow practice jersey and eventually wiped his brow after the session, high-fiving Terrapins assistant Dustin Clark as he made his way to the locker room. Trimble is currently mired in the worst shooting slump of his career — he has made just seven of his past 38 shots from the field over his past four games — but he looked at ease on Saturday, as if he knew that the only way he would pull himself out of the slog was through sheer work.
A day after a forgettable performance in Maryland’s stunning 68-63 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night, Trimble sat down with Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon and had a lengthy conversation.
“I said, ‘Melo, you know what our record was the year before you got here? We were [17-15]. You know what our record is since you’ve been here? We’re 50-12,’ ” Turgeon explained to his star. “Melo has had a couple bad games, but we’re 50-12 . . . the guy is an amazing player. He’s done more for our program than a player in a long time.”
Although Trimble was not made available for comment, the heart-to-heart was intended to help revitalize the sophomore point guard ahead of Sunday’s showdown with the Wolverines. Turgeon just wants Trimble, who has often been hailed as the savior of the program after the disastrous campaign of 2013-2014, to find joy in the game again.
The youthful exuberance that has defined much of Trimble’s career in College Park — the magnetic smile, the quirky celebrations after three-pointers, the understated charm — has been missing for much of the past week. In that span, Maryland (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten) has lost consecutive games for the first time in two years and endured its first sustained adversity of the season. It suffered a 70-57 loss to Wisconsin in College Park, which marked the first time Maryland had lost at home in 28 games, and it was further humbled by a Minnesota team that entered winless in Big Ten play and hadn’t won a game since mid-December.
Trimble was visibly frustrated in both losses, where he shot a combined 4 of 25 with 11 turnovers, the most he has committed over a two-game span during his college career. The lowlight came in the final two minutes in the loss to the hapless Gophers on Thursday night, when he air balled a midrange jump shot and committed two key turnovers.
“What I see beneath the surface, there is a frustration there,” Big Ten Network analyst Jon Crispin said in a telephone interview. “The problem is that teams have keyed on him so much, and the expectations are so high . . . the lull is even more dramatic when the expectations are so high.”
Crispin, who provided the Big Ten Network’s color commentary for Thursday’s game in Minneapolis, noted that Trimble hasn’t looked fully healthy during his slump. Both Trimble and Turgeon have said that the sophomore is continuing to work through the lingering effects of a hamstring injury that flared up in a win over Rutgers in early January. But neither used it as an excuse for the recent struggles.
Trimble has had a string of brilliant performances after the injury — he hit the game-winning three-pointer to bury Wisconsin in early January and had a pair of 20-point performances to lift Maryland to consecutive road wins over Ohio State and Nebraska — and he continues to lead the team in scoring (14.0 points per game), assists (5.3 per game), free throw percentage (86.2) and steals (1.2 per game).
He is still one of 20 players on the late-season watch list for the Wooden Award, which is given to the country’s top player. Turgeon reminded Trimble that his body of work extends beyond that.
“We have a lot of basketball left. Don’t feel like you have to make shots for us to be successful,” Turgeon told him.
Trimble’s workload remains heavy as Maryland’s back-court depth has remained thin. He has played more than 35 minutes in each of his past eight conference games — but the sophomore has also struggled at times balancing his role as a facilitator and pure scorer from the point guard position. After Thursday night’s loss to Minnesota, Turgeon also noted that Trimble’s defense had progressed as the game wore on. That is the area in which he can begin to manufacture offensive opportunities on Sunday against Michigan (19-8, 9-5).
“It’s rhythm and momentum. Those are the things where you gain confidence as a player,” Crispin said. “That starts with energy on the defensive end . . . that’s what gets you going. You can generate offense from defense.”
The counseling of Trimble wasn’t limited to the conversation with Turgeon. It included a relaxed meeting on the court with senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon on Friday. Earlier this season, Trimble and Sulaimon were touted as potentially the best back court in the country. That was far from their minds as they casually shot around Friday. They mostly talked about life and their emotions. Basketball finally came up later on, and Sulaimon consoled his teammate.
“It’s kind of hard sometimes, playing this game,” Sulaimon said. “We just got through it. We had that venting process. Everyone is confident and everyone is ready to go moving forward.”