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Maryland vs. Illinois preview: Terps close out home schedule against Illini

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Jake Layman's closing act in College Park comes against Illinois on Thursday night. Here's what he'll be up against.

Sung Min Kim/Testudo Times

The Maryland men's basketball team closes out its home schedule on Thursday night against Illinois. The Illini are bad, but the game should be interesting and emotional for a few reasons. First, Maryland probably won't be able to just blow anybody out of the water right now. Second, and more importantly, it's the last home game in College Park for Maryland senior forward Jake Layman, whose four-year career has been a lot more brilliant than the credit most give it.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPN. Here's what Maryland is up against:

Illinois Fighting Illini (13-15, 5-11 Big Ten)

The coach

John Groce is 75-58 in four seasons in Champaign. He's 160-114 for his career, which includes four years (and two NCAA Tournament appearances) helming the Ohio Bobcats.

Players to know

Malcolm Hill, junior, guard, 6'6, No. 21. Hills is the guy for Groce, and he'd get a lot more recognition if he were on a good team. He's a mediocre three-point shooter (33 percent), but he does just about everything else well, making free throws, scoring around the basket, rebounding and distributing. He averages 18 points, 7 boards and 3 assists.

Kendrick Nunn, junior, guard, 6'3, No. 25. Nunn is also a solid guard, who scores 16 points per game and comes by them with good efficiency. He also gets up for 5 rebounds per game despite relatively small stature.

Jalen Coleman-Lands, freshman, guard, 6'3, No. 5. Coleman-Lands is the third good guard on this team. He's a double-figure scorer, even if just barely (10 points per game) and makes an impressive 46 percent of this threes.

Michael Finke, redshirt freshman, forward, 6'10, No. 43. The Illini have struggled to overcome the loss of 6'11, 270-pound big man Mike Thorne, who hasn't played in months and only appeared in eight games this season. Finke is the next big in line, and he's managed an 8-point, 4-rebound average in 22 minutes per game.

Strengths

Ball security. The Illini only give the ball away on 15 percent of their possessions, which is 10th-best in the country. They do a nice job avoiding turnovers, which means Maryland should expect to defend long trips up the court.

Foul shooting. This team doesn't get to the foul line often, but when it does, the Illini shoot 74 percent. Maryland would do well to keep Hill (82 percent) and Nunn (79 percent) far away from the charity stripe.

Weaknesses

Offensive rebounding. If Maryland can't defend the defensive glass against this team, it's DEFCON 1. The Illini are a mix of totally disinterested and totally not good enough to get offensive rebounds. They rank 344th in the country in recouping 21.5 percent of their missed shots. They are, by a lot, the worst offensive rebounding team in any power conference.

Defending the shot. Teams tend to make a lot of baskets from the field against Illinois, which ranks 311th in effective field goal rate allowed (53.2 percent). This isn't to say Maryland won't go cold and have a hard time scoring, but Illinois generally lets teams make shots at a fairly high rate.

Predictions

KenPom: Maryland, 78-64. The Terps have a 91 percent chance to win.

Alex: Maryland, 74-71, in a win that doesn't leave anybody particularly happy.