Illini Collapse Allows No. 3 Maryland To Escape With 59-58 Win

Matthew Stevens

With a historic road upset of a Top 3-ranked opponent in its sights, Illinois seemingly read the playbook on how to execute a late-game collapse.

With a seven-point lead, Illinois failed to convert a single field goal and allowed No. 3 Maryland to escape the XFINITY Center with a 59-58 win. The Terrapins (10-0, 1-0 in Big Ten Conference) outscored Illinois 11-1 over the final four minutes and 11 seconds of action and most of that production was dictated by senior guard Anthony Cowan. Cowan, who is a preseason Second Team All-America selection by Blue Ribbon Yearbook, finished with a game-high 20 points including the final four points of the contest to ensure the program’s first 10-0 start since the 1998-99 season.

Maryland has now only come back from a 14-point second-half deficit just twice in the last decade.

Cowan, who was greatly neutralized in the first half by Illini guard Trent Frazier and excellent defensive rotations off ball screens, had 14 second-half points.

Illinois couldn’t find a go-to leader on offense in the final few minutes of this game and for the second straight game had a final possession end in disaster to cause its fourth straight loss against a Power 5 Conference opponent.

After Cowan hit a deep 3-point shot to tie the game with 19 seconds left, Illinois guard Andres Feliz lost the ball on a dribble handoff and then fouled Cowan around 70 feet away from the opposing basket causing a 1-on-1 free-throw situation with 2.1 seconds left.

Illinois (6-3, 0-1) saw a final possession against Miami (Fla.) on Monday night end in heartbreak as Ayo Dosunmu barrelled into the lane with the Illini down one and was whistled for a charge call to ensure a loss. Illinois hasn’t defeated a Top-5 ranked team on the road in more than 30 years since the Flyin’ Illini squad won at No. 3 Indiana on March 5, 1989, thanks to a Nick Anderson 35-footer at the buzzer.

Feliz was having a transformative game up to the final possession of the afternoon as the senior was benched in favor of junior Da’Monte Williams at the start for the first time this season. However, Feliz, a Dominican Republic native, finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes. The fumble of the ball and foul with a few seconds left was Feliz’s only turnover of the game.

Dosunmu, who began the year as a projected lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, finished with just nine points on 4 of 12 shooting and just two field goals in the game’s final 17 minutes.

Frazier, who bounced back from a puzzling defensive effort against Miami guard Chris Lykes, led the Illini with 13 points, including two of his team’s three 3-point shots.

Kofi Cockburn struggled with foul trouble and was held scoreless in a second half that saw the 7-foot, 280-pounder on the floor for just six of the final 20 minutes.

Illinois, which now has a 15-game losing streak against ranked opponents on the road, has lost its league opener every year since the 2013-14 season. The Illini schedule doesn’t get much easier as they face No. 4 Michigan (8-1, 1-0) Wednesday night for an 8 p.m. tip at State Farm Center.