CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — That was ugly.
Although it came into Sunday afternoon against the Maryland Terrapins as near-double-digit favorites, Illinois’ struggles were more apparent than ever.
Both teams traded punches in the first half, but Maryland took a charge in the second half and held an eight-point lead with under six minutes to go.
But Brad Underwood’s team fought back to a five-point deficit with a minute remaining. With the crowd on its feet, Maryland’s star guard Jahmir Young charged down the court on the fast break.
Looking up, he found a wide-open Jordan Geromino near the basket. The forward slammed it home, giving the Terrapins the exclamation point in a stunning upset win.
Illinois fell apart offensively in the second half, and the Terrapin duo of Young and Julian Reese were too much for the Illini to overcome in a 76-67 loss.
“Maryland deserves all of the credit — every ounce of it,” Underwood said.
Every time Illinois (12-4, 3-2 Big Ten) had an opportunity to make a run in the second half, it couldn’t buy a bucket. The Illini started the frame shooting a horrid 3-of-20 from the field and finished the half at 9-of-40 (22.5%).
Although the offense was riddled with inefficiencies, it wasn’t due to the shot selection. Illinois attempted 24 layups in the second half and only made eight of them.
“How can you get a better shot than a layup?” Underwood said. “The easiest shot that God created when he created the game of basketball is a layup. You have to learn at this level to make some contested ones sometimes.”
While Illinois couldn’t get the lid off the basket, Maryland (11-6, 3-3 Big Ten) couldn’t seem to miss in the second half.
“I thought we were as mistake-prone as we’ve every been this season,” Underwood said.
A huge factor of its defensive mistakes could be attributed to Maryland’s star duo. After leading the Terrapins over the Illini in the last matchup, Young picked apart their defense once again on Sunday, exploding for 28 points and eight assists.
“We’ve played a lot of really, really good guards,” Underwood said. “Today, Jahmir had his way with us.”
Although Coleman Hawkins was receiving DPOY consideration after his defensive performance on Thursday, he had no answer for Julian Reese. The forward dominated down low, complementing Young with 20 points and 11 rebounds — his eighth double-double of the season.
Illinois jumped out to a nine-point lead early, but that was the largest lead it would see. Maryland got back into the game through aggressive offensive play — dominating Illinois in the paint and on the offensive glass.
By the end of the contest, Maryland overwhelmed Illinois in the paint 52-26. The Terrapins were relentless on the glass, and their ability to get the 50/50 balls nearly every time late helped deliver the upset win.
“That’s the one thing that every single player can control every day is their mental approach to the game and their physical effort,” Underwood said. “Today, Maryland whipped us.”
Marcus Domask led Illinois with 26 points, but his five turnovers were just one symptom of the Illinois offensive struggles.
The Illini only finished the game with six made threes, three of which were made by Luke Goode (13 points) in the opening minutes of the game. He was the only other player in double digits.
Many Illini were uncharacteristically unreliable on Sunday. After scoring in double digits in each of their past seven games, Quincy Guerrier and Hawkins combined for 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
After averaging over 13 points per game in his last four games, Justin Harmon only scored a single point (0-7 FG).
“We’ve gotta get back to who we are.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
- FOUL TROUBLE: Coleman Hawkins committed his second foul of the contest with eight minutes remaining in the first half. In the three minutes that Hawkins was out, Maryland kept the game close with a 9-4 run.
Hawkins would foul out with 2:50 remaining in the game.
- DAINJA ZONE: Maryland took its first lead of the game late in the first half, but Dain Dainja provided a five-point boost in the final 90 seconds to retake the lead heading into the locker room.
- FOUR-POINT SWING: Early in the second half, Domask led the fast break looking to give Illinois a larger cushion. However, Maryland forced his fourth turnover and scored a fast-break bucket of its own and kept the Illinois lead at 1.
From there, Maryland took the lead and never looked back.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
One of only two Ty Rodgers buckets on the day.
Late shot clock Ty Rodgers goes to his get left, spin back right move. pic.twitter.com/bLeXNYCqUQ— Hoop Informatics (@HoopInformatics) January 14, 2024
Drama after the game.
Julian Reese and Tim Anderson verbal exchange in the hand shake line. pic.twitter.com/HLkWtzr1kf— Hoop Informatics (@HoopInformatics) January 14, 2024
This stat really puts the loss into perspective.
Coming into today, top-10 KenPom teams were 68-0 at home against teams ranked outside the top-75.— cobra. (@cobrastats) January 14, 2024
After Illinois's loss to Maryland, top-10 teams are now 68-1.
Underwood’s struggles against the Terps continue.
Illinois is now 2-7 vs Maryland under Brad Underwood.— Hoop Informatics (@HoopInformatics) January 14, 2024
TWEET OF THE GAME
The year is 2039. Illinois, coming off back-to-back-to-back national titles and boasting a 71-game winning streak, is struggling with 8-15 Maryland at home...— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) January 14, 2024
The Illini will look to bounce back in Ann Arbor where they will play bottom-dweller Michigan on Thursday.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m. on FS1.