NEW YORK — Maryland men’s basketball left Madison Square Garden with its second straight conference loss, failing to get anything going in the second half and falling to Illinois 78-67 on Saturday afternoon.
After it felt like Maryland was in control for most of the first half, Illinois’ strong close to the period and fast start to the second half made it a competitive outing. Maryland had two separate field goal droughts over five minutes, allowing Illinois to hang around in the first half and grab the lead a few times in the second half, including for good right before the final media break. The Terps committed 15 turnovers in the second half and finished with 21.
Three Maryland players scored in double figures, led by Bruno Fernando and his 12th double-double of the season. The sophomore center finished with 19 points and 11 boards, with Anthony Cowan Jr. adding 18 points and five assists. Jalen Smith added 11 more, but Maryland was forced to spread the floor and go small for much of the final period. Illinois also had three players finish in double figures led by Ayo Dosunmu, who had 12 first-half points and finished with 20. 14-of a career-high 16 points came in the second half for Tevian Jones, while Andres Feliz added 15 more.
The Terps were aggressive throughout on the offensive end, making it into the bonus before the nine-minute mark in each half. Illinois used the three-point shot to counter the disparity, nailing 6-of-14 after going just 2-of-9 in the first half.
Maryland’s bigs went to work early, with Smith scoring Maryland’s first seven points, including a rim-pulling jam and a triple, before Fernando added the next four. Maryland exploited Illinois’ tendency to collapse the paint early, and with rapid ball movement around the arc and attacks off the drive, lanes opened up. The Terps took a 22-12 lead before stagnating a bit.
After Illinois cut the lead to five, Maryland went back up 11, but then stagnated again. The Illini cut the lead to two, as Maryland went quiet for four minutes, allowing a 9-0 run over three of those. Two free throws from Cowan and a block from Smith on the other end sent the Terps to halftime up 34-30. Dosunmu was key to the Illinois run, and his work in transition almost single-handedly got the Illini back in it. Maryland helped with a field-goal drought of 5:35 to end the half.
Buoyed by the run at the end of the first half, Illinois took its first lead since the game’s opening minutes with four straight threes to open the half on a 12-6 run. Smith scored the next four points, his first since the opening minutes, to put Maryland back ahead. A second triple from Wiggins gave Maryland a 47-42 lead that quickly evaporated. An 6-0 Illinois run gave it the lead, but Cowan took it right back with a personal 5-0 run.
Maryland had another five-minute field goal drought, hitting just five free throws between the 12:22 and 6:53 marks. The Illini cut the Terps’ lead to 57-56 in that span, but a Fernando alley-oop finally snapped the drought. Illinois then tied the game at 59 and pulled ahead on a Jones triple with 4:45 left. Maryland ended up on the wrong end of a 66-61 deficit with just over two minutes left and couldn’t find any offense to counter; three crucial turnovers in the last four minutes didn’t help one bit. Wiggins cut the deficit to five with a layup, but two more Dosunmu free throws all but sealed it. Head coach Mark Turgeon picked up a tech late in the game, but it was already out of reach.
After three games away from home, the Terps will get back to the Xfinity Center on Tuesday for a matchup with Northwestern. Where, or whether, it will be ranked after an 0-2 week is a different question.
Three things to know
1. Illinois’ ball pressure caused ample problems. Turgeon was forced to go small and spread the floor in the second half, with the Illini’s full-court press delaying the Terps’ sets. After Maryland’s opening domination in the paint, Illinois made life difficult. Maryland once again got worked in transition, being outscored 23-6 in fast break points and 27-13 in points off turnovers.
2. Maryland couldn’t withstand Illinois’ three-point onslaught. After defending the long ball fairly well in the first half, Illinois caught fire in the second. Illinois killed Maryland with the sheer quantity, and would end up shooting a higher percentage as the Terps failed to hit their own down the stretch.
3. The loss concludes a rough week for Maryland. After starting the week with its largest loss of the season at the hands of Michigan State, this contest was a chance to bounce back. The game opened like it would go according to script, but after it appeared the Terps let the whistles (or perceived lack thereof) get to them, the game started to slip away. Two double-digit losses in one week aren’t going to look great come March.