Seth Trimble knew his time would eventually come.
With just over fourteen minutes remaining in North Carolina’s in-state battle against Wake Forest Wednesday, the Demon Deacons stretched their lead to 56-51. Graduate guard Tyree Appleby was beginning to heat up and the ACC’s third-leading scorer had tallied seven points out of the halftime break.
UNC head coach Hubert Davis turned to his bench and called upon Trimble, UNC’s lone substitution of the second half. The former 4-star prospect wreaked havoc on Appleby from the moment he reentered the contest until the game’s closing moments. His defensive prowess and career-high 11 points allowed the Tar Heels to prevail, 88-79.
“I like to try and be a spark plug to the best of my ability,” Trimble said. “The starters play so many minutes. They need rest and they need help. They’re not always going to be super hot, so just being a spark plug."
Against Wake Forest, Leaky Black recorded a career-high 18 points, Armando Bacot earned his fourth-straight 20-point outing and RJ Davis put up 22 second-half points. But Caleb Love, one of the Tar Heels’ most prolific scorers, went nearly silent.
The junior guard struggled to find his footing Wednesday night, misfiring on six 3-pointers and accounting for almost half of North Carolina’s total turnovers. Combined with the fact that graduate forward Pete Nance’s night ended less than two minutes into the game due to a back injury, it was apparent that the Tar Heels needed someone to step up from the bench.
When Trimble was called upon in the second half, the first-year went toe-to-toe with Appleby — matching up around the three-point arc and even picking the former Florida Gator in the backcourt on select possessions.
“One of the many reasons that we recruited him (was because) he’s just gifted athletically and he’s a special defensive player,” Hubert Davis said. “He can make plays off the ball, he can get steals and deflections. And despite his height, he’s pretty strong so you can’t post him up either.
After leading the Demon Deacons' charge early in the second half, Appleby managed just two points — both of which came at the free throw line — once Trimble switched on to him.
Both Black and Bacot noted that Trimble’s defensive instincts are rare for a first-year, with Black adding that Trimble's "big quads" allow the gritty guard to remain in an effective defensive stance for extended periods of time.
“The things (Trimble) can do as a freshman, it's stuff you really don’t see,” Bacot said. “I can look back at my freshman year, and all the other guys’ freshman years, and we weren’t as sound defensively.”
Trimble’s lockdown play soon opened the door for his offensive game to flourish.
The first-year guard made a calculated cut for an open layup, crashed the glass to tally a second-chance bucket and even worked his way near the restricted area before swishing a turnaround jumper. After not attempting a field goal in the first half, Trimble knocked down all four of his shot attempts out of the break and finished with a career-high 11 points.
“Tonight was the best I felt offensively with the ball this season, besides maybe (against) Johnson C. Smith,” Trimble said.
After the contest, Trimble admitted that the transition to college basketball hasn’t come easy. The Menomonee Falls, Wis. resident said he has had some practices filled with multiple "goods," while others have featured repeated "bads."
Though Trimble understands his minutes are still in flux on a game-to-game basis, his two-way impact Wednesday night is a performance he knows he can build off of.
“It’s been a hard process, but (transitioning has) been a process that I’ve embraced,” he said. “It’s been a long process and, confidence-wise, tonight was a huge game for me going into ACC play.”
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