There might be some life in Maryland men’s basketball after a 81-65 victory over No. 17 Illinois on Friday night.
From the Terps taking advantage of Illinois center Kofi Cockburn’s absence to being above .500 against ranked opponents this season, here are three takeaways from Maryland’s victory at the Xfinity Center.
Maryland takes advantage of Kofi-less Illinois team
With Illinois big man Cockburn sidelined with a concussion, the paint looked wide open for Maryland, which outscored the Fighting Illini 40-16 in the paint. Graduate transfer guard Fatts Russell (15 points, seven rebounds) consistently used his speed to attack the rim.
“It’s hard when you are without arguably the best player in college basketball,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “You set a defense for a certain way and no offense to [Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk] and [Omar Payne], they’re not [Cockburn] and they got the ball in the paint consistently.”
Meanwhile, Terps junior forward Qudus Wahab, who was held scoreless in the previous matchup against Illinois, tallied 11 points before coming out of the game in the second half with an apparent hand injury. It was the first time the Georgetown transfer scored in double figures since Jan. 3 against Iowa when he had 12 points.
During the second half, when junior forward Donta Scott scored 15 of his game-high 25 points, he took advantage of the smaller guards, using his size to drive towards the rim, scoring eight paint points in two minutes to give the Terps a 68-63 lead with 4:40 left in the game.
The Terps even controlled the glass, outrebounding Illinois 33-30.
Terps are above .500 against ranked opponents
Despite coach Mark Turgeon’s departure, tough losses and inconsistent play, there is one good thing about Maryland’s turbulent season. After a victory over Illinois, the Terps are 2-1 against ranked opponents.
In December, Maryland defeated then-No. 20 Florida, 70-68, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as senior guard Eric Ayala and Russell combined for 38 points. A month later, the Terps lost to No. 8 Wisconsin by one point despite trailing by 21 in the first half.
There’s still a lot of basketball left in the season and Maryland’s success against some of the nation’s top programs might change. However, the Terps have proven despite their record that they will compete and could be a potential spoiler for some of the top teams in the Big Ten Conference.
Maryland finally played a complete game
Throughout the season, the Terps have struggled to play a consistent 40 minutes. One half has usually been better than the other, one of the reasons for some of the tough losses they’ve endured.
Friday night was a different story, as the Terps played a complete game from start to finish. After leading by two points while shooting 51.7% from the field in the first half, the Terps outscored Illinois 44-30, using an 11-0 run to close out the game.
Even though Ayala only had nine points, the Terps received solid outings from Wahab, Scott and Russell as well as timely 3-point shooting from freshman forward Julian Reese.
“We got a contribution from everyone that played in some shape or fashion,” Manning said. “I thought [Wahab] got us off to a good start with his offensive rebounds and finishes at the rim. Julian came in and we were able to switch our defenses at the end of the game. We switched one through five and he was able to stand in front of the guards. Eric made some plays, and Fatts led us in rebounding. Across the board, just a terrific team win.”
The Terps were active defensively, recording nine steals and limiting Illinois guard Alfonso Plummer to four points in the second half after he lit them up for 14 in the first. The Fighting Illini also missed their last seven shot attempts while the Terps held them to 39% shooting in the second half.
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 105.7 FM