Illinois basketball had an admittedly well-deserved week off for the holiday season, but naturally, the program’s five-game winning streak came to a screeching halt in College Park on Tuesday night. The Orange and Blue opened Big Ten season in forgettable fashion thanks to an abysmal 84-59 blowout loss to the Maryland Terrapins.
Malcolm Hill showed up to play, per usual, and he led the Orange and Blue with 21 points and 7 rebounds on 6-10 shooting from the field. The star senior also recorded his 1,500th career point, making him just the 11th player in program history to reach the milestone. The only other member of the team to reach double figures was Mike Thorne Jr., who had 10 points on 5-9 shooting.
The Fighting Illini looked hopelessly outmatched from the start of this game. Maryland blitzed their way to an early 15-4 lead, and although Illinois patched the bleeding for a few short stretches, the home team entered the break with a big 39-23 lead. In case you didn’t actually watch the entire contest (like me!), here’s a Twitter video that should give you an idea of what actually occurred.
Everything was terrible, and fans were subjected to more of the same during the second half. Illinois wasn’t able to sustain any sort of offense (35.6% shooting from the field), and their defense provided what may very well have been one of the worst efforts of the John Groce era. So, all-in-all, the Orange and Blue were somewhat fortunate that Maryland’s largest lead was only 31 points.
I’d rather not waste any more of my night writing about this team, so instead of scanning through social media for dozens of depressing statistics, I’ll leave you with this single point.
25-point losses as Illinois coach:— Dave Wischnowsky (@wischlist) December 28, 2016
John Groce, 9 in 5 seasons (including 7 in last 2).
Bruce Weber, 0 in 9 seasons.
John Groce has about two weeks to get the ship back on track before another NCAA Tournament-less Spring — and a coaching change — essentially becomes inevitable. Fan morale hasn’t been this low for decades, which I’m sure Josh Whitman is well aware of.
Illinois (10-4, 0-1) will be back in action on January 1 to for another conference matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Opening tip at the State Farm Center has been scheduled for 6:00pm CT and the contest will be televised on the Big Ten Network.