COLLEGE PARK -- It was the bread and butter of Melo Trimble's game as a freshman at Maryland. While he held the threat of shooting the ball from the outside against you, he could also change speeds and drive by you then show off his body control around the rim to either finish or get fouled.
That, at the very least, seemed to be the end result of a Trimble drive. He would get to the line and, being that he shot 86 percent from the stripe, it was often an efficient offensive possession.
But something has changed this season. After averaging 6.9 free throw attempts per game last season, he has shot at least seven times from the line is just two of Maryland's 19 games. As a sophomore, he is averaging just 3.9 attempts per game. He has attempted five free throws in the last four games. Total. That includes just one in 42 minutes on the floor in Tuesday night's overtime win over Northwestern.
Head coach Mark Turgeon has been beating that drum since the start of conference play, back even before the team's loss to Michigan last week.
"Melo gets the ball wherever he wants. I just wish he'd get a few more foul calls," he said. "I'd like for him to get to the line a little bit more."
"It's very physical on him right now and he is [Big Ten] Preseason Player of the Year and hopefully as the season goes on as we continue to figure out ways -- because we're going to keep driving the ball, that's what we do -- hopefully he'll get to the line a little bit more, but he's got to stay confident."
There could be numerous causes for the dip. It most likely starts with familiarity, as Trimble himself pointed out on Tuesday.
"Teams are starting to strategize against me," he said. "They watch film on me."
Fouling an 87-percent free throw shooter is like handing the other team points, so more defenses are willing to back off and force him to finish over length instead of getting up into his body. He still often makes them pay with dazzling adjustments at the rim, but given the choice between that and almost automatic free throws, it is not hard to choose.
Then there is the actual act of calling a foul, which comes down to referees. Has something changed?
"Coaches are asking the refs to look at the film of how I get my fouls," Trimble said, "and refs are starting to just watch for little things and not even call fouls."
As a freshman, Trimble was the master of selling contact. He would throw his head back to emphasize a collision with a defender. That worked last season, but now becomes a "let-it-play" tell as a sophomore.
The result is a certain amount of contact on his drives that seems to go uncalled to avoid giving a phantom foul to a defender instead. Thus, that could be at least a part of his overall dip in attempts.
Ultimately, though, don't expect it to change Trimble.
"It's nothing that's in my control," he said. "So it's part of me just playing basketball and not worry about the fouls and hopefully it will come."