LIVE BLOG: FINAL - No. 3 Maryland 59, Illinois 58
We're less than an hour away from Illinois opening Big Ten Conference play as the Illini (6-2) take on No. 3 Maryland in College Park.
Illinois is looking to win its league opener for the first time since the 2013-14 season, an 83-80 overtime home win over Indiana (Dec. 31, 2013). Illinois is looking to start 1-0 in the Big Ten when opening on the road, meanwhile, for the first time since the 2010-11 season, an 87-77 win at Iowa (Dec. 29, 2010).
The Illini head to College Park looking to snap a 14-game skid against ranked opponents in true road games. The Illini’s last victory on a Top 25 team’s home court was a 66-63 win at No. 24 Iowa on March 8, 2014, courtesy of a Jon Ekey 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left. It has been more than 30 years since Illinois last defeated a Top-5 team on the road, a 70-67 win by the Flyin’ Illini at No. 3 Indiana on March 5, 1989, thanks to a Nick Anderson 35-footer at the buzzer.
I'm looking live at the Illini Maven/Sports Illustrated home office today but we'll bring you live updates right here.
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Before every game of the 2019-20 season, we’ll take a look at three things you’ll want to watch for after tip.
Game 9: Illinois (6-2) at No. 3 Maryland (9-0)
Date/Time/Place: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019: 4 p.m. CST, Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland
Records: Illinois 6-2; 12-21, 7-13 in Big Ten Conference in 2018-19. Maryland 9-0; 23-11, 13-7 in Big Ten Conference
Line: Maryland by 10
Series notes: Maryland leads the all-time series 9-6 but Illinois won the last meeting on Jan. 26, 2019 at Madison Square Garden as Ayo Dosunmu scored 20 points, Tevian Jones had 18 and Illinois beat No. 13 Maryland 78-67. Illinois hasn't won in College Park since Nov. 29, 2011.
TV: ESPN2; Jason Benetti (PBP), Dan Dakich (analyst)
Radio (Illinois): Brian Barnhart (PBP), Deon Thomas (analyst) and Steve Kelly (Pre/HT/Post)» The broadcast can be heard live on TuneIn online radio, Sirius/XM 371 and at FightingIllini.com.
1) Is the Illinois turnover issue truly in the past?
Since suffering the turnover bug in its first five games of this season, Illinois seemingly got its giveaway curse lifted against inferior competition. In the first 30 minutes against Miami (Fla.), the Illini had 10 turnovers and 11 field goals. This is obviously a trend that is shocking considering Illinois' veteran leadership in the backcourt with Dosunmu, Trent Frazier and Andres Feliz. The Maryland defense held Notre Dame to just 29-percent shooting in a 72-51 victory Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. On the season, Maryland ranks second in the Big Ten and top-20 nationally holding opponents to 36.5-percent shooting. The Terrapins currently lead the Big Ten in turnover ratio (+3.4) and are forcing 14.9 turnovers per game.
2) Can Illinois defend Maryland point guard Anthony Cowan?
Cowan might be the best point guard in the Big Ten (yes, Michigan State fans that may be correct) after he earned a bevy of awards for his sensational MVP performance at the Orlando Invitational, including NCAA Player of the Week and Big Ten Co-Player of the Week. Cowan averaged 24.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals in three games, including a career-high 30-point performance against Temple. The Illini defense just allowed 5-foot-7 Miami point guard Chris Lykes to go for a career-high 28 points in 28 minutes in its last loss.
3) Who wins at the low block? Kofi Cockburn or Jalen Smith?
Illinois freshman Kofi Cockburn is tied for eighth in the NCAA with five double-doubles but this is the first true test of his college career against an equally-talented and more experienced big. Maryland sophomore forward Jalen Smith has added 30 pounds since stepping foot on campus last year and returns after his Big Ten All-Freshman Team season. He flashed his brilliance in last year’s NCAA Tournament when he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds in two games. Smith was fantastic against Notre Dame, posting 15 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks for his fifth double-double in nine games. It was the first time a Maryland player had posted that stat line since Ryan Randle had 20 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks against Indiana on Dec. 2, 2002.
Brad Underwood was asked Friday morning if he knew which one of his veteran players could be a go-to guy if Illinois gets shaky either on defense or even (as it was suggested this week) in practices/shoot-a-rounds leading up to a game. He didn't have an answer. Maryland knows who their go-to leader is (Cowan) and I don't think Illinois can guard him.
No. 3 Maryland 83, Illinois 68
3:40 p.m. CST UPDATE - The Illini Radio Network has confirmed Illinois head coach Brad Underwood has changed his starting lineup before this Big Ten Conference opener. Junior Da'Monte Williams, who is coming off a game against Miami (Fla.) where he had five points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes, will get his 22nd career start against Terrapins as Andres Feliz goes to the bench.
Here is the league's lineup of games for tonight:
FINAL - No. 6 Ohio State 106, Penn State 74
FINAL - Creighton 95, Nebraska 76
IN PROGRESS - Indiana (8-0) Wisconsin (4-4)
Pre-game UPDATE: Maryland going with a 4-guard lineup early. Illinois forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (6-9, 235) will likely have to guard Darryl Morsell (6-5, 200) at the perimeter. Giorgi has struggled with that through eight games this season.
UPDATE - 17:47 left in 1st - Illinois 4, No. 3 Maryland 3 - Kofi Cockburn already with four points but the Illini have two turnovers.
MEDIA TIMEOUT - 15:55 left in 1st - Illinois 8, No. 3 Maryland 5 - Illini already with three turnovers. Game plan is clearly to get the ball to Giorgi against the smaller player but he has to be more aggressive. He's been passive and just made a lazy post entry pass to Kofi.
MARYLAND TIMEOUT - 12:11 left in 1st - Illinois 16, No. 3 Maryland 5 - WOW. Illini on a 14-2 run over last 6:10 due to Kofi protecting the rim and a much-more active and engaged ball movement on offense. Trent Frazier with five points.
MEDIA TIMEOUT - 7:40 left in 1st - Illinois 23, No. 3 Maryland 12 - Illinois is doing a great job of finding open shooters in transition. Frazier with 8 points. Maryland is 2 of 10 from 3-point range. Jalen Smith is 2 of 6 early and looks uncomfortable against Kofi and Giorgi.
MEDIA TIMEOUT - 3:03 left in 1st - Illinois 30, No. 3 Maryland 17 - Maryland currently shooting 25 percent and 3 of 14 from 3-point range. Illinois center Kofi Cockburn with four offensive rebounds.
ILLINI TIMEOUT - :24 left in 1st - Illinois 37, No. 3 Maryland 25 - I've said it before but if Illinois wants to be at its best, Kipper Nichols has to be good. He's been active and aggressive on both ends.
HALFTIME - Illinois 39, No. 3 Maryland 25 - Largest first-half deficit for Maryland this season. Illinois shot 47 percent from the field but more importantly, they're holding Maryland to 3 of 14 from 3-point range and Anthony Cowan has only six points.
Underrated solid move by Illinois head coach Brad Underwood and Illini in this first 20 minutes? Da'Monte Williams for Andres Feliz in starting lineup. Williams has been great on defense, great on the boards and had great post entry passes. Feliz has 10 points while pushing the tempo with the second unit.
MEDIA TIMEOUT - 16:27 left - Illinois 43, No. 3 Maryland 31 - Cockburn on the bench with three fouls. Illinois with only six turnovers today. Cowan and Smith are 6 of 17 from the field.
MEDIA TIMEOUT - 11:45 left - Illinois 51, No. 3 Maryland 40 - Giorgi and Kofi both with three fouls and Cowan is heating up (eight points in this second half).
ILLINI TIMEOUT - 8:17 left - Illinois 51, No. 3 Maryland 46 - Illini incredibly stagnant on offense (3:49 scoring drought) and Ayo Dosunmu is 3 of 10 with only seven points.
MARYLAND TIMEOUT - 4:55 left - Illinois 55, No. 3 Maryland 48 - Huge shot by Dosunmu and Underwood now can likely wait get Kofi back in the game.
MEDIA TIMEOUT - 3:48 left - Illinois 57, No. 3 Maryland 50 - Illinois is 2 of its last 11 but still leading because Trent Frazier is doing an EXCELLENT job of face-guarding and denying Anthony Cowan the ball.
ILLINI TIMEOUT - 1:07 left - Illinois 58, No. 3 Maryland 55 - Illinois has the ball but has no field goals in the last four minutes.
FINAL - No. 3 Maryland 59, Illinois 58 - Illinois offense doesn't make a field goal for the final five minutes and Maryland pulls off only its second 14-plus point second-half comeback in a decade.