The Illini open Big Ten Play on Friday night at their House of Doom vs. the #22 Maryland Terrapins.
Illini fans always scratch our heads wondering why the Illini have a hard time winning at the Xfinity Center. Who can forget the Illini crumbling down the stretch after having a double-digit lead in 2020? Or last year, after a strong start to open the game, the Illini fading down the stretch?
Let’s hope this year is different. As of Monday night, the Terrapins are 6-0, but their best win to date has been over Miami (FL). That’s the only Power 5 team they’ve faced all year.
Maryland is led by a couple of power forwards—6-foot-8 senior Donta Scott (averaging 15.5 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game) and 6-foot-9 sophomore Julian Reese 15.0 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game).
Reese is especially physical and isn’t afraid to get after it at both ends of the court. He could be a tough match up for either Colman Hawkins or Matthew Mayer. Expect to see a lot of Dain Dainja muscling up against him.
As for guards, Maryland has 6-foot-8 senior Hakim Hart, who is averaging 14.0 points per game along with 5.2 rebounds per game. Expect a good battle with Terrance Shannon, Jr. against him.
The point guard is Jamir Young a 6-foot-1 senior who has averaged 13.7 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, and 3.2 assists per game. Skyy Clark will have the job of slowing him down.
Maryland started out their first three games by scoring in the seventies, but have picked it up in the last three, scoring in the high eighties to mid nineties. The Illini defense will need to continue being excellent, especially limiting Scott and Reese on the backboards and not give Maryland multiple opportunities at second chance shots.
The Terps’ defense started strong this season, holding teams in the fifties the first three games. Since then, though, they have allowed teams to average in the seventies, so the Illini must take of the ball by limiting their turnovers and get good shots. They ought to use their speed and athleticism against the muscle of the Terrapins.
This is going to be a tough game, and the Illini as I said earlier have had their trouble at the Xfinity Center. Let’s hope the Illini can continue to shoot well, limit turnovers and offensive rebounds against Maryland, and come out with their first win on the road vs. Maryland since 2019 (even though that game was technically played at Madison Square Garden in New York, it was called a Maryland home game).