COLLEGE PARK -- Throughout the season, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon has dropped not-so-subtle hints about his displeasure with the officiating as it pertains to star point guard Melo Trimble.
Trimble, who got to the free-throw line an average of 6.9 times per game last season, saw his number of trips cut significantly to 4.9 this year.
But in the NCAA tournament, something has clicked. Through two games, Trimble has gotten to the line 23 times and hit 22 of those attempts. He was 9-of-9 in the team's win over South Dakota State and 13-of-14 to help Maryland punch its ticket to the Sweet 16 with a win over Hawaii.
So what changed from the regular season to the tournament?
"Nothing," Trimble said on Tuesday, smiling. "Just getting more calls and, I mean, there's nothing I can do to change that. Just don't worry about the calls and just play."
When the Maryland sophomore is able to get to the line at that rate, the offense changes. Free throws become a substitute for made field goals when the offense struggles in the half-court -- which it is prone to do -- or a supplementary piece that allows the Terrapins to create separation and put a team away, like they did against Hawaii in the second half of Sunday's Round of 32 game.
For Trimble personally, it allows him to control tempo. If nothing comes of the first 20 seconds of a shot clock, he can attack the basket with the floor spread and draw a foul to create a point-scoring opportunity out of almost thin air.
When he hits free throws at nearly an 88 percent clip, it is easy money.
"They called the games differently," Turgeon said Tuesday, acknowledging that it goes both ways. "We were in foul trouble in Spokane, especially the first game against South Dakota State. We were in unbelievable foul trouble and just trying to get through it and we did.
"It's good to see Melo get there [to the free throw line]. It kind of opened things up for him and opened things up for the other players, too."
Turgeon went on to say that the game plan won't change. And why would it? After going 1-of-18 from three against Hawaii, you would expect that three-point shooting number to improve and it will need to if Maryland wants to beat Kansas.
But it seems that the interior is where the focus should be until the Jayhawks take it away because that is what will create the good looks around the basket, the opportunities at the free-throw line, or the open shots from three if the Kansas defense collapses.