Dosunmu’s late efforts not enough as Illinois goes cold in 66-63 loss to Maryland


Ryan Ash

Ayo Dosunmu drives to the lane during Illinois’ game against Maryland Jan. 10. Dosunmu declared for the 2021 NBA Draft Tuesday afternoon.

By Brandon Simberg, Staff Writer

When Ayo Dosunmu dribbled down the court with eight seconds remaining, it was a scene Illinois fans have become familiar with — their star guard trying to bail them out in a close game.

He pulled up for a deep three-pointer off the dribble, a shot he’s made numerous times. But like the majority of Illinois’ shots down the stretch on Sunday night, it was no good, hitting the back rim and bouncing out as the clock expired. The Illini fell 66-63 at the hands of the Maryland Terrapins.

“I thought it was going in,” Dosunmu said. “I thought I had a great look. I work on that shot a lot after practice and in warm-ups. You never know when you have to bring it out. It actually looked good.”

In a similar fashion to Illinois’ win over Northwestern, the Illini landed the first punch. They used a 6-9 shooting start to jump out to a 16-9 lead on a pair of Dosunmu free throws. But the Terps delivered the next blow. They forced Illinois into 10 straight missed field goals and converted nine straight points on the other end to get their first advantage, 18-16.

From there, sophomore center Kofi Cockburn led the way. He scored 10 points in the final 10:33 of the half, exposing Maryland’s lack of size. Freshman guard Adam Miller also found his groove, making three threes. Dosunmu finished the half with seven points, but on 2-11 shooting. Illinois players outside of those three were just 1-9 from the field. They went into the locker room up 34-32.

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This was the same spot where Illinois pulled away on Thursday, but the Terps wouldn’t fold. They made shot after shot to start the second half. Maryland hit seven of its first nine attempts, capped off by a no-look pass from Aaron Wiggins to Hakim Hart to give Maryland its biggest lead of the game, 50-45. Illinois’ second-half defense was not nearly as sharp as it had been in the previous few games.

As soon as the lead ballooned to five, Dosunmu started to will his team ahead. He got to the rim for a layup in transition, then proceeded to drain a three from the right wing, resulting in a cheer of “boom!” from the Illinois bench. After his slow first half, Dosunmu picked it up in the second half going for 16 points in the final 20 minutes.

But down the stretch, it was the Terps defense overpowering Illinois’ offense. That Dosunmu layup was the last bucket for four minutes as the Illini missed shot after shot. The Terps started to pull away. Hart drained a three of a tipped rebound to give them a 62-61 lead. The Illini made just two of their last 10 shots, as Dosunmu’s final miss sealed the deal.

“We ran our offense with no pace today,” head coach Brad Underwood said. “We were really stagnant. Looked heavy-legged and almost tired and lethargic.”

Illinois has relied on consistency from its role players all year, getting production from Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams and Adam Miller. Miller hit three threes in the first half but went quiet in the second. Players not named Dosunmu, Cockburn or Andre Curbelo, took just five attempts in the second half, making zero. Frazier, Williams and Jacob Grandison failed to score a single point. Underwood attributes that to the entire offense having an off-night.

“I don’t know if it was a matter of who we got going,” Underwood said. “But we’ve gotta do a better job. I’ve got to do a better job of that.”

It’ll be a quick turnaround for Illinois as they will have the chance to right the ship on Wednesday at Nebraska.


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