Illinois to face Maryland in rematch



By Jason Grodsky

The Illinois basketball team will wrap up its five straight road games on Wednesday night against Maryland as part of the ninth annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Illinois is 3-5 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and lost last year’s game in the challenge to the Terrapins 72-66 at Assembly Hall, ending the Illini’s 51-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents that dated back to 1998.

The Big Ten has never won the challenge and the Illini have only won one game on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, beating North Carolina 68-64 in 2005.

“We can’t be tired now,” junior guard Trent Meacham said. “The season is just getting under way and we’ve got some big games. We’re going to Maryland, playing an ACC school on ESPN, and they have some guys back from last year. They’re going to be tough, but we’re excited.”

Maryland sophomore starting guard Greivis Vasquez scored 17 points off the bench for the Terrapins in their victory over Illinois last year and is the team’s leading scorer this year, averaging 17.7 points per game.

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The player responsible for guarding Vasquez this year will be junior guard Chester Frazier, who, along with freshman Mike Davis, will be playing in a homecoming of sorts.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said the Baltimore native has been talking about this game since the team’s schedule came out earlier this year.

Frazier and Davis have been competing to see who can get the most tickets for the game close to their homes.

“I think I’m winning right now,” Frazier said. “I have about 30 (tickets) and I think he’s got about 15 to 16 tickets so I’ll probably win that battle. Last year we lost to them and this year when I saw the schedule came out I got excited that we got a chance to avenge our loss last year.”

Frazier said this will be the first time his family will have seen him play live in an Illinois uniform.

His mom tried to come watch once, but Frazier ended up sitting the one time she made it out to Champaign.

“I’ll have to be calm,” Frazier said. “I can’t get too juiced up.”

Davis is also excited to have the opportunity to play in front of his family and against a team that offered him a scholarship to play there in 2008 if he would have chosen to play at a prep school this year.

“I was both a Maryland and Georgetown guy growing up,” said Davis, a Virginia native. “I know a lot of guys on that team, they recruited me pretty heavily, I went to open gym up there over the summer. It’ll feel good to play in front of my whole family.”

Frazier, Davis and the rest of the Illini will tip off against Maryland at 6:30 p.m. at the Comcast Center, and the Illini may have senior leader Brian Randle back in the lineup.

Randle bruised a nerve in his left leg in the Illini’s game against Oklahoma State in Maui and has gone through individual workouts to be ready to take court in Maryland.

“(Brian)’s been getting confidence and feel back in his leg this week,” Weber said. “He’s being cautious because of all the things he’s gone through. It just takes awhile for the nerve to regenerate and the numbness and tingling to go away. There is still a chance he might not be able to go, but listening to the doctors and trainers it sounds like he’ll be OK.”