Illinois men’s basketball falls on the road to Maryland behind dismal defense, inconsistent offense


Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Jacob Grandison shoots a 3-pointer over Terrapin guard Donta Scott during Illinois’ game against Maryland on Friday night in College Park, Maryland.

By Christian Jones, Staff Writer

The Illini traveled to College Park, Maryland, where they faced the Maryland Terrapins on Friday night. Illinois went cold from the floor late, falling in blowout fashion, 81-65.

Redshirt sophomore Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk recorded the first start of his career in place of the injured Kofi Cockburn, who missed the game after entering concussion protocol earlier in the day.

Bosmans-Verdonk got involved early. He set a screen for Trent Frazier and caught the ball in the paint before hitting Jacob Grandison on a cut for the Illini’s first points of the game. 

Maryland senior Eric Ayala got off to a hot start, scoring four points in the first two minutes of the half. Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab also added a bucket each in the first two minutes. 

Alfonso Plummer kept the Illini afloat early hitting, a three and a mid-range fadeaway to cut the Maryland lead to one, 8-7.

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    After Da’Monte Williams was fouled and made one free throw, the Illini took their first lead of the game on an Alfonso Plummer three, his second of the game, after he came off a screen from the baseline. This gave Plummer eight points, and the Illini led, 11-8.

    After Donta Scott made an and-1, the score was 15-15 with 14 minutes left in the half and each team had missed just two shots. 

    Ayala hit a deep three, his first of the game, to give Maryland an 18-17 lead with 13 minutes to go.

    Andre Curbelo checked in for the first time at the 12:50 mark, along with freshman Brandin Podziemski. Podziemski drove to the hoop on his first possession, only to turn the ball over by traveling when trying to pivot in the paint.

    After the 12-minute mark, both teams began to cool off, each finally dropping below 70% shooting from the field. 

    Donta Scott picked the scoring back up for Maryland after he was fouled by Jacob Grandison in the post. He made both free throws to give him seven points and Maryland a 20-17 lead. Scott missed a three on Maryland’s next offensive possession after Bosmans-Verdonk scored on an assist from Frazier.

    The score was locked at 24-24 when Alfonso Plummer attempted his fifth three of the game, which he would miss. Luke Goode grabbed the rebound and passed to Curbelo, who found Omar Payne open in the paint. Payne’s dunk attempt was blocked by Maryland’s Hakim Hart, but Goode grabbed a consecutive offensive rebound, this time shooting a three and missing.

    Goode then grabbed his own rebound, his third of the game, only to bobble it and lose it in a jump ball with Maryland’s Julian Reese.

    The score would stay locked at 24-24 for nearly another minute until Coleman Hawkins grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled and made both free throws, his first points of the game. This gave Illinois a 26-24 lead.

    Donta Scott hit a 3-pointer on Maryland’s next possession to give him 10 points and retake the lead, but Hawkins matched his 3-pointer on the next possession to give Illinois a two-point lead with five minutes to go.

    The Illini wouldn’t score for nearly two minutes before Frazier ended their drought with a three to cut Maryland’s lead to one, 33-32. Russell extended Maryland’s lead again when he grabbed his own miss and scored.

    The teams traded a few misses until Plummer made his fourth three of the night on six attempts to tie the game. Plummer had 14 points in the first half.

    A Hakim Hart steal and dunk in transition gave Maryland a two-point lead, and both teams would air-ball on their final possessions of the game. 

    Going into halftime, Maryland led Illinois, 37-35.

    The Illini took the lead as soon as the second half started when Plummer connected on his fifth three of the night. After Maryland’s Qudus Wahab scored in the paint, Frazier hit a three on the other end, and the Illini led 41-40.

    The Terrapins took a quick three on the next possession and missed. On the other end Williams kicked to Plummer in the corner, but for once Plummer missed, though he thought he was fouled and fell after shooting.

    Williams then grabbed Plummer’s miss and gave it to Frazier, who drove and knocked down a step-back, his 10th points of the night, and the Illini led 43-40.

    A turnover by Maryland’s Ayala led to another Illinois bucket on the other end. Bosmans-Verdonk grabbed Williams’ miss and scored his second basket of the game, and Maryland took a timeout with 17:24 left in the half with Illini up by five.

    After Fatts Russell scored his first points of the half, giving him 10 on the night, Illinois took their largest lead of the game at that point, six points. The Illini led 48-42 over the Terrapins with 16:39 left in the half.

    Maryland’s Xavier Green made two free throws to cut the lead to four, and a Frazier turnover gave the Terrapins the ball. Soon after Julian Reese hit a three from dead center after receiving the ball from Fatts Russell. This cut the Illini lead to one, 48-47.

    Grandison responded with a three of his own off an assist from Frazier, and the Illini went back up by five, but Maryland would not be going away.

    Back-to-back buckets from Donta Scott and Fatts Russell tied the game once again. With 13 minutes left in the half, the score was 51-51.

    Grandison broke the tie on a fading jumper from five feet out that rolled around the rim before dropping in. Frazier stole the ball from Fatts Russell on the next possession and hit Bosmans-Verdonk in the paint for an open layup, putting Illinois up 55-51.

    The Illini clamped down on defense over the next couple minutes, holding Maryland scoreless for over 2:45, but the Illini didn’t score during that stretch, either. Julian Reese ended Maryland’s scoring drought when he made one free throw with just under 10 minutes left in the game. Illinois led, 55-52.

    Plummer was fouled in the paint on the next possession and went to the free-throw line for the first time in the game. Coming into Friday, Plummer had made 48 of 49 free throws this season. He missed one free throw, just his second miss from the line this season.

    Some sloppy play between both teams led to back-to-back turnovers before Julian Reese hit a three to give Maryland a one point lead, 57-56.

    Andre Curbelo took the ball on the next possession and called for an iso. He dribbled his defender into a lull then attacked and pulled up in the mid-range to score his first bucket of the game with 7:55 left in the game. 

    Curbelo’s shot gave the Illini a one-point lead, but Maryland would retake the lead on an Ayala bucket on the next possession, driving past Curbelo for the score.

    Donta Scott scored three straight baskets for the Terrapins. The second came on a drive and spin where he was fouled by Bosmans-Verdonk and made the and-1 free throw, giving him 17 points. 

    The third basket came after Grandison cut the lead to four, only for it to be quickly extended to six again.

    Maryland led 66-60 when Williams blocked Russell’s layup attempt. Frazier grabbed the ball and hit Grandison, who connected on a three in the corner. Illinois head coach Brad Underwood immediately took a timeout after the make.

    When play resumed, Maryland went right back to the hot hand. Smith backed WIlliams into the paint, turned over his left shoulder and easily dropped in a right-hand jump hook, giving him 21 points.

    Smith had scored four straight baskets for Maryland when Hart was fouled by Plummer on a fast break. He made both free throws, giving Maryland a seven-point lead.

    Andre Curbelo was fouled while attempting a turnaround jumper in the paint, and made both free throws. With 2:30 left the Illini were down 70-65.

    Maryland went to Scott again and he scored again this time on Trent Fraizer in the paint. Again he was fouled though this time he missed the and-1 free throw.

    The Illini worked the ball around the next possession searching for an open shot after not scoring for the past three minutes. Grandison missed a three and Scott grabbed the rebound, all but ending the game in the eyes of the Maryland crowd, who began to smell blood as Scott was fouled again and made both free throws, giving Maryland a 74-65 lead.

    The Illini would continue hoisting – and missing – from deep, and Maryland continued to score and make free throws as the game ended. 

    Maryland beat Illinois 81-65 behind a career-high 25 points and six rebounds from Terrapin junior forward Donta Scott. Fatts Russell scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds to go with three steals.

    The Illini did not score a field goal in the last 5:03 of the game, with Illinois’ final basket being Grandison’s corner three to cut the lead to three points. Their final points came when Curbelo made two free throws with 2:39 left in the game.

    Plummer led the Illini with 18 points and five 3-pointers made. Andre Curbelo played just 14 minutes, scoring 14 points and grabbing four rebounds.



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