No. 4 Maryland (20-10)

vs. No. 5 Illinois (23-9)

What: Second round, NCAA West Regional

Where: Arco Arena, Sacramento, Calif.

When: Today, 4: 30 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Line: Maryland by 5

How they got here: The Terps outscored 13th-seeded Utah State 29-12 over the last seven minutes of the first half and the first five of the second half to take command of their first-round game. Illinois forced 20 turnovers and committed only six in its 64-51 win over 12th-seeded South Alabama.

Conference record: Maryland was 10-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, finishing third behind Duke and North Carolina. Illinois went 13-3 in the Big Ten and shared the title with Michigan State, its first since 1984.

Ranking: Maryland is No. 20; Illinois is No. 22.

NCAA tournament record: Maryland is in its 15th NCAA appearance. The Terps can reach the Sweet 16 for the third time in five seasons, and that's how many times it got that far in the first 55 years of the tournament. Illinois is in its 19th tournament. The Fighting Illini have twice been to the Final Four, in 1952 and '89, but they haven't gotten past the second round since then.

Last meeting: Illinois beat Maryland, 72-70, in a Mideast Regional third-round game in 1984.

Coaches: Gary Williams is 163-111 in nine seasons at Maryland, and 370-239 in 20 seasons overall. Lon Kruger is 45-19 in two seasons at Illinois, and 282-204 in 16 seasons overall.

What Maryland has to do to win: Look inside to Obinna Ekezie and Rodney Elliott, and keep playing like it has the last three weeks. Sarunas Jasikevicius, Terrell Stokes and Matt Kovarik must expend a lot of energy defending Illini guards Kevin Turner and Matt Heldman. The Terps must shoot free throws better.

What Illinois has to do to win: The Fighting Illini must rebound better and limit the touches by Ekezie and Elliott, who are superior players to Jarrod Gee and Brian Johnson, their counterparts. Illinois must dictate the tempo, and Heldman and Turner are ready for Maryland's pressure.

Bottom line: Both are veteran teams with balance. Maryland has something Illinois doesn't, inside scoring threats in Ekezie and Elliott. If the Terps can move inside, they also can go to Anaheim next week.

Pub Date: 3/14/98

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