Maryland defeats Illinois in rare non-conference home court loss that ‘hurt’ big time

By Jason Grodsky

For the second time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge’s eight year existence, Maryland downed Illinois, but unlike the Terrapins’ 76-63 win in 2001, this time it came on the Illini’s home court.

Maryland’s 72-66 win over the Illini (7-1) was just the fifth win by an opponent at Assembly Hall in the last eight seasons, and the loss snapped the Illini’s nation-leading non-conference 40-game win streak and the nation’s longest non-conference home court winning streak at 51.

No. 23-ranked Maryland (8-0) used a 20-6 run to open the game and put the Illini down big early for the third consecutive game. After Illinois was able to recover and take a five-point lead in the second half, Maryland went on a 29-18 run to end the game and celebrate a rare win at Assembly Hall.

“We don’t lose that much at home and it’s a terrible feeling, especially to hear the other team celebrating when you’re going back to your locker room,” junior forward Shaun Pruitt said. “To hear them say stuff like ‘we just beat Illinois at home’ and things like that, it kind of hurt.”

Illinois’ non-conference home court winning streak began on Nov. 20, 1998 with a victory over St. Louis and had spanned the last eight-plus seasons.

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With the loss, the longest active non-conference homecourt winning streak in the nation now belongs to Oklahoma at 48.

“Maybe it will be a learning lesson for us,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “We lost to Purdue here when they out-toughed us three years ago. We learned from that one and now we have to see if we’ll learn from this one.”

Big men step up for Illini

It didn’t take long for Brian Carlwell to prove to the Illini faithful that he didn’t need to redshirt.

The Illini freshman forward came into the game averaging just 8.7 minutes per game and 2.9 points and 1.7 in the Illini’s first seven games. He surpassed all of his averages in the first half alone, and finished with a career high 8 points in the loss.

In the first half, Carlwell was a force on the boards, especially on the offensive end. He grabbed three offensive rebounds in the first half and scored on every put-back to help the Illini close to a five-point deficit at halftime after being down by as much as 15.

Carlwell didn’t see as much action in the second half, due largely to the play of Shaun Pruitt.

Pruitt scored just three points and grabbed only two rebounds in the first half, but when all was said and done, the Illini junior forward ended with a team-high 18 points and 11 rebounds. Senior forward Warren Carter also finished with a double-double, posting 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“Carlwell did fine,” Weber said. “You look at Carlwell, Pruitt and Warren, they all had pretty good numbers.”

Illini cool off from beyond the arc

With sharp-shooting sophomore guard Jamar Smith limited to just 15 minutes because of his left ankle sprain, the Illini struggled to make shots from behind the arc all night long.

Illinois shot a dismal 25-percent from three-point land on 5-of-20 shooting.

In the first half the Illini were just 1-for-11, with the only make coming from senior forward Warren Carter with 7:08 remaining.

The shooting slightly improved in the second half. The Illini shot 4-of-9 from beyond the arc to help them take the lead against the Terrapins, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome the feisty Maryland defense.

“When our guards go 5-for-30 from the field you’re not going to win too many games,” Weber said. “Our shot selection has to get better, especially early in games.”

Quote of the Game

“I’m real saucy.” – Illinois junior forward Shaun Pruitt when asked about how he felt after losing at home for just the fifth time in the last eight seasons.