Just a little more than a week ago, I wondered openly about how good Maryland really was. Did the record just look good or were the Terrapins truly going to be a factor in the Big Ten?
It hasn’t taken me long to buy into the Terps, and the biggest reason is Melo Trimble.
The junior guard spent the better part of his first two seasons — his freshman year especially — taking over games and pushing Maryland down the stretch. In Thursday’s win over Iowa, it was vintage Trimble once again, and while the Terrapins have yet to truly dominate anyone, they’re winning. And in this conference, that’s about all that matters.
The day before the win over Iowa, Jaylen Brantley was asked what the secret was to Maryland’s quick start in the Big Ten.
“Melo Trimble,” he told the Sun. “It’s as simple as it gets. He’s our guy at the end of the game.”
That wasn’t the case early in the season, when Maryland lost at home to Nebraska, but on Thursday there was little doubt Trimble was the guy as a 15-point lead had disappeared and the Terrapins were trailing by three.
What came next were two 3-pointers from Trimble and a lead that never was relinquished.
“It’s great to see Melo make shots like that for us in the clutch,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “That’s what he’s done most of his career. He hasn’t done it lately, the last couple of games. For him to step up and do that was terrific.”
It’s the main reason the Terrapins sit atop the Big Ten and why they won’t be going anywhere soon. The schedule helps some and the fact it’s not all on Trimble at all times does, as well.
Anthony Cowan and Justin Jackson have been solid while Damonte Dodd is a force underneath. Throw in the 3-point shooting of Kevin Huerter and the Terrapins have balance — the type of balance that makes them hard to beat.
There will be challenges along the way, but Maryland (17-2, 5-1 Big Ten) has the benefit of playing Wisconsin and Purdue once each, though the Wisconsin matchup is in Madison.
But with Trimble playing like a guy who knows it’s up to him to turn the Terrapins into a championship team, it’s hard to bet against them.
They find ways to win, simple as that.
“It’s what we’ve done all year,” Turgeon said. “You don’t get to where we are right now without winning like that and believing you’re going to win those games. But there’s a huge belief system.
“It’s great to see Melo make shots like that for us in the clutch, and that’s what he’s done most of his career.”
However, Turgeon also understands there are no free passes.
Several of the wins could have been losses and each night in the Big Ten is a battle.
“It’s just a long, hard grind season,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to win your next one, to be honest with you. Whenever you get one, we celebrate them a lot more. You hug each other and then you move on the next one.”
Things were starting to get rolling at Penn State, and then the schedule got brutal.
The Nittany Lions had won three of four, the only loss coming at Michigan when they blew a double-digit lead in the second half. So, needless to say, things were good in State College.
But after a come-from-behind victory over Minnesota, what came next was a home game with Indiana followed by a trip to Purdue — not the best formula for building momentum.
It started poorly with the buzzer-beating loss at the hands of the Hoosiers during the week, culminated with a beatdown at Purdue, an ugly loss for a team that is significantly improved under Patrick Chambers.
Needless to say, the coach was unhappy with how things played out.
“I was looking forward to seeing how we would respond,” Chambers said after the Purdue loss. “We responded early to their first run, but we never responded again late in the first half. We knew Purdue was one of the toughest teams in the league. We’ve known that for six years.”
What he also knows is there are no breaks in the Big Ten and up next is a trip to Wisconsin on Tuesday. Penn State (11-9, 3-4) hasn’t beaten Wisconsin since the conference tournament in 2011, and hasn’t won in Madison since 1995.
Not exactly the way you snap a two-game skid.