COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Though the Maryland men's basketball team's Senior Day festivities were for forwards Damonte Dodd and L.G. Gill before it faced Michigan State March 4, the possibility lingered in the air that star junior guard Melo Trimble was also playing in his last game at Xfinity Center.
If it was the last home game Trimble plays, hitting a game-winning 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to play as part of a 63-60 decision over the Spartans would be an extraordinarily appropriate impression to leave upon the home fans.
With the score tied at 60 with 6.3 seconds left, Trimble inbounded the ball from under the Terps' own basket to freshman forward Justin Jackson, who was hounded by the Spartans' Miles Bridges. Jackson was still able to get the ball back to Trimble, who dribbled up the court. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said he told Trimble to drive the ball, but much like his game-winner at Wisconsin last January, Trimble fired a three from the top of the key, drilling it over the outstretched arms of Lourawls Nairn Jr. and sending a sellout crowd of 17,950 into a frenzy.
"For the past two times, I'm two-for-two when [Turgeon] told me to drive the ball. The other one was Wisconsin and this one," Trimble said. "I didn't hear him say that, I heard him say, 'Try to get to the basket and find an open teammate if I couldn't do it.' I kind of blocked that out and said, 'Shoot a three.'"
Trimble will almost certainly end up in the rafters at Xfinity Center; the most recent player to receive that honor is Greivis Vasquez, who graduated in 2010 after a stellar four-year career. The Terps were 17-15 in the 2013-14 season -- the year before Trimble arrived -- and lost several players who transferred out. Trimble, along with forwards Dez Wells and Jake Layman, were the catalysts to ending Maryland's four-year absence in the NCAA Tournament during the 2014-15 season.
The Terps' win against Michigan State March 4 was the 102nd game Maryland has played in Trimble's three years. Trimble hasn't missed a game, and the Terps have won 79 of those games -- good for a .774 winning percentage. Trimble scored 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting and 2-of-6 from deep.
"One of the greatest that played? I mean, he's up there," Dodd opined when asked where Trimble ranks in Terps lore. "I don't want to say he's the greatest, but he's definitely a really good player that played here. He'll definitely have a plaque here when he leaves, whenever that is.
"Good kid. A lot of people don't know that he's a really good kid and he really cares about his teammates, his family. That's the thing I liked most about him when I met him. He's a really big family person, loves his mother and different things like that."
Said Turgeon: "Think about where we were before Melo got here. Think about it, guys."
Trimble had a chance to put Maryland ahead on the Terps' second-to-last possession when he got isolated on Michigan State guard Matt McQuaid and drove, but his shot didn't fall. No matter, it was Trimble's game to win moments later after a defensive stand by the Terps that came with a touch of luck.
Michigan State inbounded on Maryland's end of the court with 20.4 seconds left in regulation after Jackson batted the ball out of bounds. Then Michigan State's Cassius Winston handled the ball at the top of the key until the shot clock started to fizzle. Winston saw forward Nick Ward -- who had a monster 22-point, 16-rebound effort -- break open in the paint, but Ward fumbled the ball out of bounds when he was trying to lift Michigan State to a two-point lead.
It set the stage for the Terps and Trimble. Turgeon said he "told every ref, 'They're going to foul Melo,' and he pulls up and makes a three. So that was that." Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said Nairn's task was to stay in front of Trimble, and Nairn "did exactly what I wanted and exactly what he should do, and a great player hit a great shot from 25 feet."
For Turgeon, it's the third straight year since joining the Big Ten of earning a double bye in the conference tournament. The victory meant a lot to Turgeon, who was emotional during his post-game press conference. In fact, at the under-16 timeout in the second half, a very animated Turgeon implored the entire arena to get loud. Dodd joked he thought Turgeon "was going to breakdance or something."
"To say I wanted this one bad would be an understatement," Turgeon said. "I really wanted to win at home. I wanted to win at home. It's been a crazy year; 7-2 on the road, 5-4 at home. And I wanted everybody to remember when they left this building today that we had a heck of a team and we have a lot of fun in this building. And so I was trying to get myself fired up, get everybody fired up and let our team know, 'Hey man, we're going to do whatever it takes to win this game.'"
More notes on the Terps' win...
-Ward and Bridges, two freshmen who combined for 40 points on 34 shots, were terrific for the Spartans. Ward in particular had his way down low, at times simply out-muscling the Terps' big men for rebounds and position for easy buckets. He was also terrific in converting screen-and-rolls into buckets. Bridges, meanwhile, hit four 3-pointers.
"We tried to play the 3-point line. Bridges was amazing tonight. He's making almost every shot and we pretty much tried to get the ball out of his hands," Trimble said. "But they just started ball screening. Our help side wasn't really good today and they scored on a lot of easy baskets. Our help side just wasn't there today."
-Maryland finished the regular season at 24-7 overall and 12-6 in the league. The Terps will be the third seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and their first game will be March 10 at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
"We're fired up, we're going into D.C., we don't have to get in a plane. We get two days off, we don't play until Friday, guys love that," Turgeon said. "Second biggest cheer in the locker room is they got a couple days off to regroup and hopefully we can get a lot better between now and Friday."