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Illinois vs. Maryland: Keys to the Game

Will Illinois be able to bounce back against the Terps?

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland comes to Champaign on Friday night after losing three of their last four games. The Terrapins are 6-3 in Mark Turgeon’s seventh season as head coach, and 0-1 in conference play after losing to Purdue at home on Friday night. Let’s take a look at some keys to success for the Illini on Sunday night.

Turn Over the Terps

Maryland has turned the ball over 145 times this season which ranks 346th among all Division 1 teams. For reference, there are 351 Division 1 teams this year. So if we do a little calculus, that means Maryland has the 6th most turnovers in college basketball. Coincidentally, Illinois has caused the 6th most total turnovers this year, with a total of 157. This is where Illinois is going to have to make their money against Maryland. Maryland is much bigger than Illinois so it will be difficult to score in the halfcourt.

Illinois needs to create live-ball turnovers from their pressure defense and score easy buckets in transition. Te’Jon Lucas will need to pick up where he left off against Northwestern. Bryant McIntosh had 6 turnovers on Friday and Lucas has a tougher task on Sunday with the speedy Anthony Cowan Jr. Cowan is Maryland’s leading scorer and a very talented replacement for Melo Trimble. If Illinois is going to beat Maryland, it is imperative that Lucas holds his own against Cowan and frustrates him on the defensive end.

Hang Tough on the Glass

As poor as Maryland has been at taking care of the ball this year, they’ve made up for it with their rebounding. The Terps rank 15th on both the offensive and defensive glass and 10th in total rebounds this year. Maryland is a huge team. They have five players on their roster listed at 6-foot-9 or taller. Bruno Fernando is a 6-foot-10 freshmen that looks nothing like a freshmen and is going to give Illinois fits all game down low. Illinois only has Michael Finke, and the limited Ebogbodin and Vesel, at that size.

A big part of Illinois’ offensive attack is it’s offensive rebounding. The Illini are 22nd in offensive rebounding and are able to get a lot of extra chances off of their own misses. If they are unable to do that against Maryland’s size on the defensive glass, the Illini will be in a tough position on offense. The same goes on the defensive end of the court. If Maryland cleans up on the offensive glass, the Illini are going to have to defend extra possessions.

Illinois doesn’t have to, and probably can’t, out-rebound Maryland. However, Illinois cannot look up at the scoreboard at halftime, and see that Maryland has a double digit rebounding advantage, because if they do, they are going to be very disappointed when they shift their eyes to the point totals.

Don’t Reach!

Both teams are top ten in the nation in free throws made and free throws attempted. Illinois has committed the 8th most fouls in the country. Maryland has drawn the 8th most fouls in the country. This is going to be a slow ugly Big Ten game. I advise fans to watch with caution and to set your DVR’s to record an extra 30 minutes.

Illini fans and media sound like a broken record at this point with regards to Illinois’ fouling problems. As mentioned above, Illinois needs to play aggressive and cause turnovers, but they won’t be able to do that if Maryland is in the double bonus with 11 minutes to play in the half. Also, Illinois is already coming into the game with a size disadvantage, Finke and Black have to be out there for Illinois. There is no margin for error in this matchup. The Illini can’t afford fouls in the backcourt or any senseless charges from anyone, but especially not from Jordan, Nichols, Black and Finke.