Illinois-Maryland Preview

(AP) - Maryland is struggling at a time when it should be nearing its peak.

Coach Mark Turgeon apparently is not at all worried, given his response Wednesday when reminded that the 14th-ranked Terrapins have lost three of four.

''We've won one out of two, haven't we?'' Turgeon said with a grin.

True enough, yet Maryland fell out of contention for the Big Ten title with an 83-79 loss at then-No. 20 Purdue on Saturday. The defeat also blunted the momentum created by an 86-82 win over Michigan on Feb. 21.

So, the Terrapins (23-6, 11-5) have indeed won one of two heading into Thursday night's home finale against Illinois. Prior to that, though, Maryland lost at home to Wisconsin and on the road against lowly Minnesota.

Senior forward Jake Layman, who will be among those honored Thursday before his final home game, said, ''It's time for us to take the next step forward and just start playing.''

Turgeon believes there's time for Maryland to catch fire before March Madness gets under way.

''I feel good about our team,'' he said. ''Hopefully what we went through is going to make us a better team in March. That's all you can hope for.''

The schedule of late has been kind to the Terrapins, who have played only once since facing Michigan. That means plenty of time in the gym, working out the kinks in lengthy practice sessions.

''We've got to be where we're playing our best basketball, and we're making some pretty good strides toward that,'' Turgeon said. ''I know it doesn't look that way, maybe, if you look at what we've done. But we've had some time to practice and I feel like we're getting ready to really start playing well, whether it's going to be this week, next week or the week after.''

Turgeon hopes the time off will be helpful to guard Melo Trimble, who is 11 for 47 from the field in his last four games. The sophomore guard logged 146 of 160 possible minutes over that span and was really in need of a break.

''This week in practice he shot it well. I think he's getting his legs back underneath him,'' Turgeon said. ''He was playing a lot of minutes.''

The Terrapins are also looking for a bounce-back performance from junior forward Robert Carter, who has reached double figures in only one of his last five games.

''We need him,'' Turgeon said. ''When he plays well, we win.''

Maryland is 7-0 when Carter scores more than 15 points.

Trimble and Carter are important contributors, but it's going to take a collective effort for the Terrapins to make something good happen in March and overcome the disappointment of being eliminated from contention in the Big Ten title chase.

''That's fine. We still have some things we know we can be better at and we still have some goals we can achieve this year,'' senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. ''We're just going to try to finish the best we can.''

Illinois (13-16, 5-11) is likely to finish below .500 for the first time since 2007-08. The Illini have lost their three matchups with Top 25 foes by an average of 24.4 points since upsetting Purdue on Jan. 10. Their only other conference wins have come against the teams below them in the standings - two apiece over Minnesota and Rutgers.

One of those victories came Sunday, 84-71 over the Golden Gophers as top scorers Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill combined for 47 points. That duo totaled 13 in a 74-47 loss three days earlier to conference champion Indiana.

Freshman guard Jalen Coleman-Lands had 21 points in that defeat and followed with 18 on Sunday, hitting a combined 10 3-pointers.

Maryland was among the national leaders in defending the 3 at 29.7 percent before allowing its last four opponents to hit 43.0 percent.

Hill's 28 points lifted Illinois to a 64-57 upset of 11th-ranked Maryland last season in the teams' only meeting since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten.

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