COLLEGE PARK, Md. – All things being equal – and the teams in this game certainly were – the difference was Melo Trimble, the most talented player on the floor.
Trimble drilled a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left, and Maryland clinched a second-place tie in the Big Ten and a double-bye in the conference tournament by outlasting Michigan State 63-60 on Saturday.
After the Spartans committed a turnover under their own basket with 6 seconds to go, Terrapins freshman Justin Jackson received the inbounds pass from Trimble and immediately tossed it back to the team's leader, who dribbled up the left side of the court.
Trimble stopped short well beyond the arc, took aim and hit nothing but net.
"In money time, their junior, their superstar, not only did he score baskets but he made plays," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Now in his third season at Maryland, Trimble chose to return for his junior year instead of applying for the NBA draft. His decision is one that Izzo laments and respects, all at the same time.
"Hat's off to him for sticking around and making sure that he got better each year," Izzo said. "I guess I'm happy for him. A lot of people look at what he's doing, and he's done it the right way. I told him I was proud of him."
Back when Trimble was a freshman, Izzo called him the "straw that stirs the drink" for Maryland.
The coach's updated assessment: "He stirred the drink. Now he's stirred it, made it and drank it."
After Trimble's 25-footer went through the hoop, Michigan State took a timeout. Miles Bridges then took a long shot just past midcourt that bounced off the rim.
Trimble scored 16 on 6-of-15 shooting and Jackson added 15 points for Maryland (24-7, 12-6), which will enter the Big Ten Tournament as the third seed.
On Maryland's final offensive play, Trimble considered driving to the basket with hopes of drawing a foul. Then he thought better of it
"I wasn't getting calls all game so I just let it go," Trimble said. "I think of myself as a great shooter. Obviously, I couldn't make every shot but I felt in a rhythm and I made it."
After breaking a three-game losing streak Tuesday at Rutgers, the Terrapins won a second straight game for the first time since Feb. 15. They will take that momentum into the conference tournament following a six-day break.
A celebration that began on the court continued in the locker room following an emotional victory.
"I couldn't be more proud of this group. We danced. We had fun," coach Mark Turgeon said. "I told Melo to drive it. He shot the 3. He made it. Really happy for him. And now we got our swagger back, feeling good about ourselves heading into the postseason."
Michigan State (18-13, 10-8) would have earned a double-bye with a victory. Instead, the Spartans will start play as a fifth seed -- or worse.
Nick Ward had 22 points and 16 rebounds for Michigan State (18-13, 10-8). But his turnover in the final seconds served as a prelude to Trimble's game-winning shot.
Izzo had nothing for praise for Ward and Bridges, who combined to score 40 of the Spartans' 60 points.
"Give Nick and Miles credit. They did what they needed to do," the coach said.
The back-and-forth game featured 18 lead changes and 10 ties.
Maryland led 55-51 before Ward scored the Spartans' next nine points to tie the game at 60. The 6-foot-8 forward started his personal run with two free throws, and after Jackson hit a 3-pointer to make it 58-53, Ward scored in the lane and added a three-point play.
Neither team scored from the time Ward made a layup with 3:11 remaining to Trimble's pivotal shot.