Wednesday January 13th, 2016

Three days after Melo Trimble’s game-winning three-pointer helped No. 3 Maryland survive against Wisconsin, Rasheed Sulaimon’s game-tying effort from downtown hit the back rim on Tuesday night and the Terrapins fell on the road to Michigan, 70–67. Maryland (15–2) could have made a case for the No. 1 team in the AP poll if it had won, since West Virginia had upset Kansas earlier in the night, but instead the Terps suffered their first Big Ten loss. Here are three thoughts on the Wolverines’ win:

Michigan’s lack of size didn’t matter

Maryland features four forwards who are at least 6'9", two of which are 6'11" and 250 pounds. Michigan (13–4) starts a four-guard lineup with a lean 6'9" forward in Mark Donnal who excels more facing the basket than with his back to it. The Terrapins’ big men combined for 55 points and 26 rebounds, compared to the Wolverines’ 10 points and nine rebounds from their main two contributors down low. And yet somehow, perhaps improbably, it didn’t matter.

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Not when Michigan shot 47% from the floor and 41% from three-point range. Michigan’s guards were too quick on Tuesday. They were too agile, too productive in transition, too lethal from behind the arc. How much did it affect Maryland? Consider that midway through the second half, despite all the success the Terps were finding inside, head coach Mark Turgeon went with one of his smallest lineups all season, a four-guard set featuring Trimble, Sulaimon, Varun Ram and Jaylen Brantley to try and slow down Michigan’s success on the perimeter.

One of the biggest questions John Beilein–coached teams face is how they match up against bigger, more physically dominant teams. On Tuesday, the Wolverines shot that doubt out of the Crisler Center. It won’t always work (see Michigan’s last game at Purdue when it shot just 38% from the floor), but when it’s shooting as well as it’s capable, there isn’t a team in the Big Ten that can slow it down, inside or out.

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Where did Melo Trimble go?

Tuesday was a miserable night for Trimble, the talented sophomore who many believe will earn All-America honors this season. He picked up his second foul with 9:30 left in the first half and never really got into a rhythm. He finished with just two points on 1-for-7 shooting and four turnovers in 30 minutes of play. Michigan shut him down offensively and forced other Terrapins to pick up the slack, but they didn’t pick it up enough.

Trimble’s numbers are not a trend with which Maryland needs to be concerned. Everyone is entitled to his own off night. But what is a little alarming for the Terps is that they needed their unabashed leader to step up down the stretch, and he disappeared. The same confident, ice-in-his-veins Trimble who sunk the Badgers the other day with such bravado wasn’t there. He didn’t even take the last shot with a chance to tie the game. He was having a poor shooting night, sure, but he’s Maryland’s leader and floor general and superstar and future NBA lottery pick … the list goes on. This won’t be the last time Maryland gets tested late, not in a daunting Big Ten and especially not with a tough road test against No. 4 Michigan State looming in a couple weeks. Maryland needs a go-to guy down the stretch. Trimble is that guy and needs to step up and be that guy.

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Duncan Robinson is on a historic pace

Robinson, the much-talked-about transfer from Division III Williams College with the special stroke from distance, isn’t a feel-good story anymore. The novelty has worn off and all that’s left is Robinson becoming a national household name for his ability to shoot from long-range. Robinson entered Tuesday’s game second in the nation at 55.7% from deep, behind only to High Point’s Lorenzo Cugini, over whom Robinson has attempted 28 more shots. He shot just about his average on Tuesday, going 5 for 9 (55.6%) from distance en route to 17 points. To put his numbers in perspective, former Michigan guard Nik Stauskas, who was well-documented as one of the best three-point shooters in the country during his tenure, shot 44% from deep in each of his two seasons in Ann Arbor.

Robinson, who has made at least two three-pointers in 14 of his 16 games so far this season, is on pace for history. The Big Ten single-season record for three-point percentage is 50.2% set by Ohio State’s Jon Diebler in 2010–11. Robinson is more than six full points clear of Diebler and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, especially not in Beilein’s offense which expects Robinson to be shooting a high volume. Robinson is also just shy of the single-season NCAA record for three-point percentage (min. 100 made) of 57.2% set by Arizona’s Steve Kerr in 1987–88. The former DIII player is crashing the national scene, one three at a time—and Michigan may need every last one of them.

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