Maryland and Illinois both dropped their Big Ten/ACC challenge games and then their conference openers, leaving the two teams desperate for a turnaround Sunday when the Fighting Illini host the Terrapins. Maryland has dropped three of four since a 5-0 start, including the 72-70 setback at Syracuse in the challenge and then an 80-75 defeat versus Purdue on Friday to begin Big Ten play.
“Sometimes it just comes down to making shots,” sophomore guard Kevin Huerter told reporters after his team shot 34.9 percent against the Boilermakers. “A lot of their shots were more open than we were. … It’s not a big picture thing of why we’re losing. It’s little stuff … We got to figure it out and put a whole game together.” Like Maryland, the Illini have fallen just short in consecutive single-digit losses to Wake Forest and Northwestern - both on the road. They led twice in overtime before fading late in a sloppy 72-68 setback against the Wildcats in the Big Ten opener for both teams Friday night. Nineteen turnovers and a 3-of-18 showing from 3-point range hurt Illinois, which averaged 89 points during its 6-0 start before being stymied in the last two games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT MARYLAND (6-3, 0-1 Big Ten): Sophomore guard Anthony Cowan and Huerter both made 4-of-7 from 3-point range and combined for 39 points against Purdue, while their teammates went 2-of-14 from beyond the arc and only one other player scored in double figures. Senior reserve Jared Nickens missed a potential game-tying triple in the waning seconds but is 13-for-24 from long range on the season. Freshman Bruno Fernando is third behind Cowan and Huerter in scoring (10.9) despite averaging just 19.3 minutes, while sophomore Justin Jackson is fourth (8.7) and leads the team in rebounding (8.7), although he is at 33.8 percent from the floor.
ABOUT ILLINOIS (6-2, 0-1): The Illini also committed 19 turnovers in the loss to Wake Forest and coach Brad Underwood is eyeing a troubling trend that needs to cease if the team is going to be competitive in the Big Ten. “We might have set a Guinness Book of World Records for the most travel calls tonight,” he told the media after the Northwestern loss. “And we’re traveling. We can’t have 11 of our turnovers from bigs. Those are self-inflicted. Those are mistakes you can’t make. Those are not Northwestern beating us ... those are our mistakes that allowed them to have success.” Junior Leron Black (14.3) leads five double-digit scorers - the top three of whom shoot at least 51.8 percent from the floor - and is the team’s top rebounder at 5.9 after finishing with 15 points and seven boards versus the Wildcats.
1. Illini G Aaron Jordan is 20-for-30 from 3-point range, including 13-for-16 over a four-game span.
2. Maryland entered Friday ranked tied for seventh in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-12.1) and had a 37-34 advantage on the glass versus the Boilermakers, including 16-6 on the offensive end.
3. The Terrapins took both meetings last season while holding the Illini to an average of 57.5 points.
PREDICTION: Maryland 71, Illinois 69