COLLEGE PARK -- Melo Trimble is fighting through the first major slump of his young career at Maryland it is a difficult one to shake.
Over the past two games -- both Maryland losses, including a defeat the hands of a Minnesota team that had previously not won a game in the Big Ten -- Trimble is 4-of-25 from the floor. Over the past four games, he is 7-of-38. On the season, his three-point shooting has dipped eight percentage points and he is taking two less free-throw attempts per game.
That brought about a conversation between head coach Mark Turgeon and the sophomore guard, an occurrence that is not uncommon.
“Melo, you know what our record was the year before you got here? We were [17-15],” Turgeon recalled telling Trimble. “You know what our record is since you’ve been here? We’re 50-12.
“I played 120 games [at Kansas]. I shot well in two of them. You’ve played 62 and you’ve shot well in about 56. Everything’s fine, Melo.”
Trimble was not made available for comment to the media after Maryland’s losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota, nor was he made available after Saturday’s practice. The last time he spoke, though, he opened up about the back and hamstring injuries that have nagged him this season.
He continues to get extensive treatment, he said, but especially over the past two games some problems appear to be more about decisionmaking than being physically inhibited by an injury.
Normally the commander of the final four minutes of a given game -- and a major reason why the Terrapins are so good in games decided by six points or fewer over the past two years -- Trimble has turned the ball over nearly twice as many times (13) as he had made a shot from the field (7) in the past four games.
In the final two minutes against Minnesota, Trimble turned the ball over twice and missed badly on a pull-up jumper. In a word, it has been uncharacteristic.
“You know, there’s a lot on his plate,” Turgeon said Saturday. “Every time you turn around, there’s articles about him. We’ve talked about just playing for enjoying the basketball.”
It’s not just the responsibilities, but the minutes load as well.
Not counting Feb. 9’s win over Division II Bowie State, Trimble has not played less than 35 minutes in a game since the team’s Jan. 16 blowout victory over Ohio State. As the team’s primary ball handler, and with senior Rasheed Sulaimon as the only real secondary option, chances to breathe are short, few, and far between.
A preseason injury to sophomore guard Dion Wiley has exacerbated the problem by thinning the backcourt depth even more.
So there stand Trimble and Sulaimon, simultaneously complementing each other on the court and leaning on each other off of it. The senior says he and Trimble, too, had a long conversation after Thursday’s loss.
“We got together, shot around a little bit, just hung around and just tried to be in good spirits,” Sulaimon said. “For a while, we didn’t even mention anything about basketball, just asked each other how we were doing and stuff like that and, you know, when we started talking about basketball, we were just trying to be positive with each other.
“It’s kind of hard sometimes playing this game and you’re going through a major slump and it just feels like you can’t do anything right. We all go through it as players so we just kind of vented on that and shared some similar thoughts on going through the same situation.”
How Maryland does offensively is tied directly to Trimble’s play because the ball so often starts in his hands. When in a groove, he is the team’s best and most efficient shooter and now as a sophomore has developed the ability to facilitate as well.
But without him, there is no option that so effectively stirs the drink.
“Melo’s had a couple bad games, but we’re 50-12,” Turgeon said. “Guy’s an amazing player. He’s done more for our program than a player in a long time.”