CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It’s not often that you can score 22 in one half and play a close game of basketball, but that’s what Illinois did on Sunday. At least for three quarters.
At the end of four quarters, Maryland would leave Champaign with the result it was probably expecting when they arrived, winning 69-53.
It’s also not often that you can shoot 31% from the field and keep it close. The Illini (11-12, 5-8 Big Ten) were out-rebounded and out-shot by the Terrapins (14-10, 6-7 Big Ten). Giving the Terrapins, who lead the Big Ten in free throws made per game, 17 opportunities to score at the charity stripe would also lead to Illinois’ demise.
The deficit was cut to as little as one in the third quarter, but the Terrapins offense would help them pull away. They shot 43% from the field and 40% from deep in the second half. That, paired with Illinois continuing to struggle shooting the ball, allowed the visitors to put the game to rest.
With just one point separating the two teams, Illinois had a chance to take the lead with an inbound under their own basket. Makira Cook struggled to get the ball to a teammate and would turn the ball over. The Terrapins would go on a 6-0 run following the play.
“You gotta get the ball in,” Shauna Green said after the game. “I was extremely frustrated and not happy at all about that. It can not happen.”
Maryland’s Bri McDaniel, who shoots 46.3% from past the arc, was substituted midway through the first quarter with damage to the index finger on her shooting hand. She would re-enter the game with the finger taped, and would struggle to shoot.
Despite Maryland’s No. 2 all-time best three-point shooter and second-leading scorer on the season being unable to shoot jump shots, Illinois would lose.
This game was still tight until late in the third quarter, but as the Terrapin shots started to fall in greater numbers, Shauna Green’s voice would grow quieter.
“We couldn’t really get in any rhythm offensively,” Green said after the game.
The win keeps the Terrapins perfect in their all-time series with Illinois, advancing them to 16-0.
“We had an opportunity to get them tonight and just couldn’t get over that hump,” Green said.
It was a frustrating game for Makira Cook, too. She didn’t spend a moment on the bench, playing 40 minutes. She shot 1-of-10 from the field and finished with just four points.
Adalia McKenzie, who had been playing the best basketball of her Illinois career as of late, struggled to get going early. Foul trouble kept her on the bench early, and she couldn’t rebound as well as she had been in recent games. In the three games leading into Sunday, she averaged 13.7 points and ten rebounds.
McKenzie wasn’t the only Illini that had trouble scoring the ball. Kendall Bostic, who is averaging 12.4 on the season, failed to find the scoresheet until the 3:41 mark of the third quarter.
After the game, Green revealed that Bostic had not practiced in the last two days with a sickness.
MARCH IS AROUND THE CORNER
Sunday’s game had a lot on the line. With the win, Maryland takes sole possession of eighth place in the Big Ten.
A win would have given the Fighting Illini, who are 51st in the NET rankings, a jump in their rankings. After last week’s loss at Purdue (77th) and win over Northwestern (210th), a win against a higher-ranked opponent would have improved Illinois’ resume in the weeks approaching March.
Minnesota (38th) is the only win that Illinois has against a team currently ranked above them.
After the loss, the Illini have three days of rest before traveling to University Park to take on Penn State. The Nittany Lions have lost their last three games,
The Nittany Lions, sitting at 16-7 and 7-5 in conference play, are comfortably in the NCAA Tournament conversation. They’re 25th in the NET, a step above Illinois’ 51st, which may fall after the week it’s had.