Big Ten

Numbers might disappoint, but Melo Trimble still leading Terps deep into March

melo-trimble-0324.png

Numbers might disappoint, but Melo Trimble still leading Terps deep into March

At first glance, this season looks like a sizable disappointment for Melo Trimble.

But can it really be a disappointment when your team's still standing this late in the mad month of March?

Trimble, who opted to return to Maryland for his sophomore season after dazzling as one of the country’s top freshman a year ago and making the All-Big Ten First Team, was the conference’s preseason player of the year. But his offensive production has dropped off in a big way, mostly thanks to some sour shooting numbers.

Last season, he averaged 16.2 points per game on 44.4-percent shooting and 41.2-percent shooting from 3-point range. He was masterful at getting to the free-throw line, averaging nearly six makes from the stripe a game on nearly seven attempts a game.

This season, however, all those numbers are down. Trimble is averaging 14.8 points per game on 21.4-percent shooting and 32.2-percent shooting on 3s. He’s making a higher percentage of his free throws but is taking and making fewer a game, averaging 4.3 makes a game on 4.9 attempts a game — two whole attempts fewer than he took per game last season.

[MORE BIG TEN: Poor NCAA tournament start became strong showing for Big Ten]

Trimble’s struggles — if you want to call them that; he doesn’t — have been one of the main reasons the Terps haven’t consistently looked like the team many projected as a national-championship favorite back before the season started. Their best player’s inconsistency could be chalked up to that preseason pressure, the expectations for the team joined by Trimble being named the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year.

“I guess I felt a little pressure after having a good season last year as far as shooting. Just coming in this year and being one of the top teams, everybody put a lot of weight on me because I was one of the key returners coming back from last year's team,” Trimble said Wednesday in Louisville. “This year I had to be a leader on the team. Just to really go through all that, and I guess a shooting slump, everybody will say I struggled, but we still won some games and lost some. It's basketball. Things happen. I wouldn't call it struggling. I'd call it growing pains. I got better from it. I learned from it.”

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon also mentioned that the preseason pressure might have gotten to Trimble. But he also pointed out a truth about the sophomore point guard, that he’s a significantly better all-around player than he was a year ago.

“The only thing I can say about Melo, he's a winner,” Turgeon said. “The year before we got him, we were 17-15. I think we're 55-15 since. He's a pretty good player. He's gotten better at his point guard play. His assists are up, his turnovers are down, his decision making is better. Defensively, he's come a long way for us in the last year. He just hasn't shot the ball like he did his freshman year. He really shot it well and was very relaxed. A lot more pressure on him this year.”

Trimble, through his shooting woes, has remained one his team’s indispensable players, and he’s a big reason — if not the biggest reason — the Terps reached their first Sweet Sixteen in 13 years. In Maryland’s first-round victory against South Dakota State, he scored 19, including a 9-for-9 mark from the free-throw line. In the second-round win over Hawaii, he had 24 points, going 13-for-14 from the free-throw line.

Yes, he still was just a combined 10-for-24 from the field and a combined 1-for-10 from 3-point range in those games. But Trimble has proven that perhaps the best part of his game is his ability to get to the free-throw line. In a game where the Terps as a whole were a shocking 1-for-18 from 3-point range, lost the rebounding battle and turned the ball over 11 times, Trimble led what was a team-wide 28-for-31 performance from the stripe.

If he can keep that up, Maryland’s tournament run might last a little longer.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Terps gear right here]

What’s standing in the way of that, of course, is a date with overall No. 1 seed Kansas on Thursday night, as tough a matchup as the field of 68 could provide for any team this season. In the preseason, perhaps Maryland would have been the favorite in this bout. After the way this season has played out, with the Jayhawks without a loss since mid-January and the Terps stumbling down the stretch and grabbing a couple ugly wins in this tournament, that’s not the case.

But Maryland will continue to do what it’s done all season, with varying degrees of success, and that’s rely on Trimble.

“At the end of the day, he's only a sophomore. That's a big task for any sophomore. But he's handled it with a lot of grace,” Maryland guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. “He's an amazing talent, and I admire him because with all the weight on his shoulders, the humility he has and the humble and his hungry nature, he's the first one in the gym, the last one to leave.

“It's really been impressive. Just now, seeing where he has from the beginning of the year, he's more vocal. He's getting on people when he needs to putting his arm around people when he needs to. He's just being the total package of a point guard. He can score the ball with the best of them. He can penetrate and find anyone who's open and at the end of the day, he leads the team and he's one of the main reasons why our team is where we are today.”

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

jeremy_larkin.jpg
USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

anderson.jpg
USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.