The Terrapins, who also own one-point wins over Georgetown and Kansas State this season, will try to open Big Ten play with a victory for the third straight campaign. “We just have to have the mindset to keep doing what we’re doing,” Maryland junior guard Melo Trimble told reporters. “The Big Ten’s different. We know every game is not going to be easy. Every team is going to give their best shot. … Practice has to be better, and the way we approach the games has to be better.” Illinois is averaging almost 80 points and 50 percent shooting during its win streak, which was capped by a 75-66 triumph against rival Missouri on Dec. 21. “I’m proud of our guys,” Illini coach John Groce told the media after the victory. “They showed some poise. We had some quality possessions down the stretch.”
ABOUT ILLINOIS (10-3): In addition to Missouri, the Illini also took down BYU, North Carolina State and VCU during their streak and have drained 41.1 percent from behind the 3-point arc in that span. Malcolm Hill leads the team in scoring (18.4) and is second in rebounding (6.3) while fellow senior guard Tracy Abrams (11.9 points, 53.5 percent from the field) has also been a major factor. Senior center Maverick Morgan (9.0 points, 60.3 percent from the floor) boasts consecutive double-doubles; “He’s been a beast,” Hill told reporters.
ABOUT MARYLAND (12-1): Trimble is the only Terrapin averaging better than 11 points, posting 17.9 per contest after recording his sixth and seventh games of 20 or more the last two outings. Freshmen Justin Jackson (10.8 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Anthony Cowan (averaging 14 points the last two games) have been productive along with 7-1 junior Michal Cekovsky, who has scored 12.3 per contest the last four. Maryland is expecting to get guard Dion Wiley (wrist) back in the lineup for the Big Ten opener while 6-11 Damonte Dodd (knee) is day-to-day.
1. The Terrapins are 26-10 in their first two seasons in the Big Ten while the Illini is coming off a 5-13 campaign.
2. Illinois sophomore F Leron Black averages 11.7 points a team-high 6.7 rebounds, but has scored just four points combined the last two games.
3. Trimble has drained 434 free throws in his career – five away from tying Greivis Vasquez for fourth all-time at Maryland.
PREDICTION: Maryland 76, Illinois 68