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Maryland basketball vs. Illinois preview: Terps head for a rematch on the road

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Round one was a blowout in Maryland’s favor.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball will take to the road for a rematch against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday. The first meeting went strongly the Terrapins' way in College Park, where the team poured in 84 points to win by 25 behind Melo Trimble’s 20 points.

Two weeks ago the Terps went super small in the victory, as both Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky sat due to injury. It worked swimmingly behind a strong outing from L.G. Gill. Dodd is now healthy again, coming off a strong performance against Indiana. Cekovsy is no longer in a walking boot, but it’s too early to tell if he will suit up. Still it will be interesting to see if coach Mark Turgeon reverts to the small lineup that worked so well, or if he will stick to his traditional lineup.

The game will tip at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

Illinois Fighting Illini (12-5)

2015-16 record: 15-19

Head coach: John Groce is in his fifth season at Illinois. He coached at Ohio for four years prior.

KenPom ranking: 63 (Maryland is 53)

Players to watch

Malcolm Hill, guard, senior, 6’6/225, No. 21

In the team’s first meeting, Hill was the only Illini player who found a rhythm. He scored 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. If Illinois stands any chance at revenge, they’ll need that and more on Saturday.

Leron Black, forward, redshirt sophomore, 6’7/220, No. 12

Black is pulling down defensive boards at the 33rd-best rate in the country, but couldn’t find much success despite the Terps missing their bigs. In the teams’ first meeting he finished with four boards total and just five points on 1-of-5 shooting.

Tracy Abrams, guard, graduate, 6’2/185, No. 13

Abrams is hot and cold. While he dropped 13 or more points in seven games this season (including 31 against Central Michigan), he’s scored four or less in four of his past five games. He was ice cold against Maryland, scoring just two points on 1-of-10 shooting two weeks ago.

Strengths

Shooting. The Illini are shooting 37 percent from deep this season as a team and have the 69th-best effective field goal percentage in the nation. Chances are they won’t shoot so poorly in a second outing against the Terps.

Getting to the foul line. Illinois gets to the line at the 89th-best rate in the country. Maryland’s bigs will have to stay as disciplined as they were against Indiana.

Weaknesses

Most areas defensively. The Illini struggle to force turnovers, create steals or block shots. Opponents shoot the three-ball at 35.6 percent and shoot 49.9 percent from inside the arc, ranking 214th and 200th in the nation. It’s been the offense that’s carried Illinois.

Predictions

KenPom’s prediction: Illinois wins, 72-70. The Illini have a 59 percent chance to win.

Matt’s prediction: Maryland wins, 74-68.