PREVIEW: Illinois at Maryland

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois' game at Maryland on Thursday night.

Illinois (13-16, 5-11) at

No. 14 Maryland (23-6, 11-5)

Date & Time: March 3, 6 p.m. CT

Location: Xfinity Center (College Park, Md.)

TV: ESPN

Quick Hits

  • Maryland is fourth in the Big Ten standings with an 11-5 conference record.
  • The Terps have lost three of their last four, and they were defeated 83-79 last Saturday at Purdue.
  • Maryland is the only team in the Big Ten with five players averaging more than 10 points per game.
  • The Terps are currently projected as a No. 4 seed in ESPN's Bracketology.
  • Illinois is 5-5 all-time against Maryland, and they won last season's matchup 64-57 in Champaign.
  • The Illini are coming off an 84-71 win against Minnesota on Sunday.
  • Illinois has not won back-to-back Big Ten games this season.
  • The Illini are 1-5 against top-25 teams this season, and 9-25 against ranked teams under John Groce.

Projected Starters

Khalid Lewis (GR): Lewis had seven points, four assists and three turnovers in his Senior Night outing on Sunday night against Minnesota. He will have a tough task in guarding All-Big Ten point guard Melo Trimble.

Jalen Coleman-Lands (FR): Coleman-Lands finished with 18 points on Sunday, while hitting five threes for the second straight game. He has shot 51.5 percent from deep over the last five games, and he is 10 threes away from tying Cory Bradford's freshman record for three-pointers made as an Illini freshman.

Kendrick Nunn (JR): Nunn went off for a game-high 25 points against Minnesota, along with four steals, three rebounds and two assists. His 25 points tied the most points he's ever put up in a Big Ten game.

Malcolm Hill (JR): Following a quiet game against Indiana, Hill posted 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals on Sunday night. He has posted at least 20 points in eight Big Ten games, and the Illini will need more of the same on Thursday.

Maverick Morgan (JR): Morgan had eight points, four rebounds and four blocks against the Gophers. That was the second time this season that he's had four blocks, but his defense will be tested to the max against a talented Maryland frontcourt.

Bench

Michael Finke (R-FR): Finke got the start on Sunday against the Gophers, but it was a different story from his nine-point, 16-rebound outing up in Minneapolis. Finke was scoreless with three rebounds in 12 minutes. He has made just five of his last 21 shots.

D.J. Williams (FR): Williams had four points and two rebounds in 17 minutes of action on Sunday. He has made 15 shots over the last seven games, while hitting just six on the season prior to that.

Jaylon Tate (JR): Tate played 15 minutes, didn't take a shot and had four assists against Minnesota. He had played nine minutes combined in the previous four games.

Aaron Jordan (FR): Jordan missed his only shot attempt in the three minutes he played on Sunday. He was just 2-of-16 from the field in February.

Alex Austin (R-JR): Austin played one minute and had two fouls against Minnesota. He's played just two minutes combined in the last three games.

Cameron Liss (SO): Liss did not play against Minnesota. He has appeared in three games this season.

Maryland Starters

Melo Trimble (SO): Trimble leads the Terps with 14.2 points and 5.2 assists per game. But he has been very inefficient of late, as he has gone 13-of-57 (22.8 percent) from the field over his last five Big Ten games. Trimble had 19 points and five assists against Purdue last Saturday.

Rasheed Sulaimon (SR): Sulaimon is averaging 11.7 points per game, while shooting 45.5 percent from beyond arc. He had nine points at Purdue, but he was just 2-of-10 from the field.

Jake Layman (SR): Layman has been asked to do less this season with more surrounding weapons. He is averaging 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this year, which are slight dips from last season's stats. Layman has scored in double figures in four straight Big Ten contests.

Robert Carter (R-JR): Carter has been a nice addition on the interior, as he leads the Terps with 6.8 rebounds per game. He is also scoring 12.5 points per contest, which is third on the team. Carter had eight points, five rebounds and three blocks on Sunday.

Diamond Stone (FR): Stone has had a big-time freshman season, and he has only gotten better in Big Ten play. The 6-foot-11 big man is averaging 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds against Big Ten teams. He has scored in double figures during his last seven contests.

Three Things I'm Looking For

1. Try not to get killed inside. The Illini need to find a way to repeat their interior performance against Purdue earlier this season, which was the only time Illinois has beaten a ranked team this year. Like the Boilers, Maryland is very tough to handle on the inside. While they don't rebound quite like Purdue, the Terps are big, physical and score in bunches in the paint. Illinois' showing down low against Minnesota was not a good indication of what's to come. The Illini were outrebounded 32-to-21 against a bad rebounding team, and they gave up 34 points in the paint. But maybe pulling out the Purdue game plan will help in that area. The Illini utilized zone and pack-line defense to collapse down low and make the Boilers shoot jumpers. Maryland is a better jump-shooting team, but Illinois can't afford to play one-on-one on the inside.

2. Keep Trimble off the free-throw line. Trimble's field goal efficiency has been terrible over the last five Big Ten games. He was 4-of-12 against Purdue last Saturday, and that was the best he's shot since the beginning of February. But Trimble has still been able to score by getting to the free-throw line. He was 1-of-14 from the field against Wisconsin last month, but he finished with 10 points by going 8-of-10 from the stripe. Trimble is third in the conference with 141 free throw attempts. The Illini have to guard him without fouling, and force him to shoot his way out of his funk. Giving him easy ones at the line is not the way to compete in this game.

3. Hill and Nunn have to be huge. The Illini need more of the Hill-Nunn combo they saw on Sunday, as they combined to score 47 points by going 15-of-28 (53.5 percent) from the field. That was a major improvement from last Thursday, when the duo had just 13 points combined in the beating against Indiana. It's pretty simple for the Illini. In order to beat good teams, Hill and Nunn have to be great. They were pretty good at Wisconsin last month with 35 points combined, but even that wasn't good enough. A repeat of their 52 points combined in the upset over Purdue would probably suffice. Without an explosive outing from those two, Illinois has no chance.

Prediction

The Illini have not done so well against ranked teams on ESPN this year. In fact, they've lost all three matchups by an average of 28-plus points per game. That's just embarrassing. Maryland is a 14.5-point favorite in this one. They should be looking to take out some frustration and get rolling again before the regular season finale at Indiana.

No. 14 Maryland 80, Illinois 62


Illini Inquirer Top Stories