Maryland-Illinois St. Preview
Maryland has enjoyed success in non-conference tournaments the last two seasons, and hopes that continues amid a relatively lackluster field of opponents in Cancun this week.
The second-ranked Terrapins will take on Illinois State in a Cancun Challenge quarterfinal Tuesday night, the schools' first meeting.
Maryland has moved up to No. 2 for the first time since March 4, 2002, but comes off a pair of close victories. The Terrapins (3-0) opened with an 80-56 victory against Mount St. Mary's before winning 75-71 against Georgetown and 65-58 against Rider.
They trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half against Rider.
"We learned a lot tonight and on Tuesday (vs. Georgetown)," coach Mark Turgeon told the school's official website. "We need to play better. It's on us to win these games. Rider was terrific tonight but we just need to get better, and it's my job to get them playing better."
Heralded freshman center Diamond Stone responded well to coming off the bench for the first time, scoring 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting with two blocked shots in 19 minutes. He was 5 for 13 from the field while starting the first two games.
"We don't win the game without him," Turgeon said. "He was terrific.
"He didn't ask to be ranked so high coming out of high school, he just was. That puts more pressure on the kid. He's a tough kid and he wants to be great. As a coach I just need to be patient with him and continue to make him better."
Stone and three other starters are all shooting 50.0 percent or better, while the fifth, Melo Trimble, leads the team with 16.3 points per game.
Maryland won its non-conference tournament each of the last two seasons, taking the CBE Classic in Kansas City in 2014 and the 2013 Paradise Jam in 2013. Trimble averaged 18.3 points and shot 55.2 percent from 3-point range in six neutral-court games last season.
The Terrapins will be an overwhelming favorite to win this tournament, too, as the only team in the field that reached the 2015 NCAA Tournament. The winner of this matchup will face either Rhode Island or TCU on Wednesday night.
The Redbirds (2-2) have started the season with inconsistent shooting, hitting 50.0 percent in their wins compared to 33.6 in losses. They shot 49.2 percent in Sunday's 72-56 win against Houston Baptist, and also excelled defensively, limiting the Huskies to 35.3 percent shooting while forcing 23 turnovers. Illinois State is forcing 18.8 per game, while Maryland has turned opponents over only 30 times in three contests.
DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell was 8 for 11 with 20 points and leads the team with 17.0 points per game.
Illinois State, which has never beaten a team ranked higher than fourth, also visits top-ranked Kentucky on Nov. 30.