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Takeaways from Maryland basketball’s loss to Illinois

What went wrong at Madison Square Garden.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland vs Illinois Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — In a “home” game more than three hours away from College Park, Maryland basketball couldn’t bounce back from a loss at Michigan State, falling to Illinois, 78-67. Bruno Fernando led the Terps with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season, which was the only thing that went right for Maryland. The Terps were a turnover machine and struggled to get stops in the second half. Here’s what else stood out in Maryland’s worst loss of the season.

Illinois wanted it more.

Once the Illini proved their strong finish to the first half wasn’t a mirage, Maryland wanted no part of a pesky team that continued to hang around. Illinois hustled more for loose balls, caught the Terps napping on defense multiple times and continued to punch back on the defensive end.

This was Maryland’s first game really being the hunted instead of the hunter since rejoining the top 25, as Illinois has clearly been in the bottom tier of the league so far this season. The Illini played with something to prove, while the Terps never got going and were off for most of the afternoon. It’s hard to win games playing the way Maryland did, and it looks even worse against a subpar opponent.

Turnovers were a huge problem.

Maryland had issues turning the ball over at the beginning of the season, but seemed to curb that issue once Big Ten play resumed. The old wart returned Saturday, with the Terps committing a season-high 21. It didn’t start out as a big problem, but started to magnify as the game tightened late.

Maryland had just two turnovers in the first 12:38 of action, then committed four turnovers in the next 5:13. In the second half, the Terps didn’t go more than 2:56 without giving the ball away. Illinois started to press more in the second half just to mix in another defensive look, but it was more careless mistakes in the halfcourt that plagued Maryland. That allowed Illinois to be the second straight team to kill the Terps in transition, scoring 27 fast-break points compared to Maryland’s six.

“I really thought what hurt us for the second game in a row was transition defense,” Turgeon said. “There was a whole halftime speech, and then we gave up three open threes to start the second half. That gave them a lot of confidence.”

Even though Maryland was an impressive 21-for-24 from the foul line, the continued careless mistakes led to multiple scoreless droughts that eventually proved costly.

Maryland didn’t close the first half or start the second half well.

For the second straight game, the Terps got dusted in the same stretch. A 32-21 lead with 4:30 remaining in the first half turned into a 42-40 deficit less with 16:56 remaining. Maryland didn’t adjust to Illinois beginning to pack the paint, and mostly watched on defense as the Illini hit four straight threes to start the second half.

The Terps lost control from that point on, and seemed hesistant to fight back as Illinois scratched and clawed its way to an upset. The Illini played with more energy, and Maryland continued to shoot itself in the foot so often that it turned a winnable game into a double digit loss.

Maryland is faltering right before its most important stretch.

After hosting Northwestern on Tuesday, the Terps don’t have an easy game the rest of the season. Maryland heads on the road for four of its next five games, all against teams that are either currently ranked in the AP top 25 or were there earlier this season. That means a lot of opportunities to pad an NCAA Tournament resume, but it also is an opportunity for a young team to turn a tough week into a tailspin.

“I imagine we’re going to beat each other up over the next few months,” Turgeon said of playing in a tough conference. “It’s how you handle defeats and bounce back.”