If a team builds a pair of nine-point leads in the first half, does that count as an 18-point lead?
Maryland did that against Illinois tonight at Comcast Center, but after the first nine-point lead (29-20) disappeared in a quick 9-0 run, the Terps took another (34-25) before going into their lockerroom ahead by four, 35-31.
Actually, the Terps played some of their best basketball of the season early on, showing patience against a physical Illini defense and getting the ball inside to James Padgett, who scored his team's first six points and finished the half with nine.
Maryland was able to handle the Illinois press, mostly by keeping the ball out of Terrell Stoglin's hands. Freshman Nick Faust did a pretty good the first 47 feet, but made some poor decisions once he crossed midcourt and had two of Maryland's six points. Faust had two assists, but is still struggling with his shot (0 for 2 on threes).
Except for not keeping track of Brandon Paul, who seemed to be the only Illinois player in sync and had 13 points, the Terps was active in its switching man-to-man defense.
Based on the comments Mark Turgeon made on Tuesday, I think he (and Maryland fans) are starting to see some progress - especially from Stoglin.
After pulling Stoglin early on when he lost the ball in the backcourt, Turgeon seems to be getting through to his erratic sophomore guard. He launched a couple of questionable shots - one of them went in - but he was mostly in control during a 13-point first half.
Maryland is doing a good job on the boards (17-15) and have only six turnovers (eight for Illinois). The biggest concern for Turgeon going in was his team's depth, especially compared to Illinois. But the Illinois have played six games 10 minutes or more, only one fewer than the Terps. Maryland used nine players, but walk-on guard Jonathan Thomas only played a minute and John Auslander, who played big minutes against Florida Gulf Coast, had only three. Fatigue could be a factor in the second half.
For Maryland to win, the Terps have to built their lead up close to double digits again in the first 10 minutes. Otherwise, I don't see them having enough down at the end to hold on