No. 11 Maryland falls to ailing Illinois, 64-57
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Maryland came to Illinois Wednesday ranked No. 11 and with a record that tied the school’s best start ever. And the Terrapins were facing an Illinois team that had lost its leading scorer to injury.
But instead of a win that would keep Maryland (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten) undefeated in the Big Ten, the Terrapins were jolted in a 64-57 loss.
“We’ve been listening to everybody telling us how good we are,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “You don’t ever like to lose, but maybe we needed this.”
Illinois’ Rayvonte Rice had surgery on his left hand before the game and will be out six weeks. Sophomore Malcolm Hill came through in his absence to deliver a career-high 28 points and the win for the Illini (11-5, 1-2).
“I challenged my guys at halftime to guard (Hill), and obviously that didn’t happen,” Turgeon said.
But Hill wasn’t in the mood to celebrate his best game since high school.
“To be honest, I’m probably going to shove it away after this interview,” he said. “We’ve got a big game at Nebraska. ... This is a good win, but I’m not going to get too high off of it.”
Hill added seven rebounds. Nnanna Egwu led Illinois with nine.
Melo Trimble led the cold-shooting Terrapins with 17 points. Maryland shot just 36.5 percent from the field.
Maryland’s 28-26 halftime lead evaporated with a cold second-half start, in contrast to Hill, who opened the half on fire. He led Illinois on a 20-3 run that opened up a 15-point lead.
First he led a 7-0 run with five points on back-to-back buckets to put the Illini up 33-28.
Then he hit on another pair of jump shots, the second a 3-pointer that gave Illinois a 39-31 lead with 13:56 to play. With the crowd roaring, Maryland took a time out.
But it only slowed Hill for the moment.
He came out of the break and hit another 3, putting Illinois up 41-31.
By the time the Terrapins slowed the flood, the Illini were up 46-31 with 12:07 to play.
Maryland: Maryland came into the game making a living at the free throw line. The Terrapins averaged 25.7 free throw attempts a game, hitting 19.3 of them (74.9 percent). Against the Illini, Maryland went to the line just 18 times, hitting 10.
Illinois: The win ends a 0-3 run for the Illini against Top 25 teams. Illinois had lost to Miami (ranked 15th at the time), Villanova (which was No. 7) and to Ohio State (ranked 20th). All of those losses were on the road. ...
Illinois coach John Groce almost certainly hoped some of the points missing without Rice would come from Ahmad Starks, a transfer from Oregon State who owns the Beavers’ all-time 3-point field goal record with 185 and averaged 10.7 points a game there over three seasons. But Starks has slumped in his first season at Illinois, scoring just 7.3 points a game and hitting just 19 3-pointers through the first 15 games.
Midway through the first half Wednesday, he passed up an open look from 3-point range, and Groce let him hear about it.
“Shoot it! Shoot the ball, big boy!” Groce yelled.
Starks finished 1 for 6 with 5 points.
Maryland’s seniors were the coldest part of the roster, shooting a combined 3 for 21 Wednesday. Evan Smotrycz was 0 for 6 and Richaud Pack was 1 for 7. Turgeon said they were trying too hard to make something happen on a night when the team struggled.
“I love my seniors, but they just didn’t have a good night,” Turgeon said. “They were pressing.”
Maryland will finish its two-game road swing Saturday at Purdue.
Illinois heads back on the road to face Nebraska Sunday. The Illini open Big Ten play with four out of five away from home.