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Illinois hoops gets another shot at Maryland upset

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Illinois hoops gets another shot at Maryland upset

Illinois' Malcolm Hill dribbles around Indiana's OG Anunoby during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on February 25. The Illini lost 74-47.

Illinois' Malcolm Hill dribbles around Indiana's OG Anunoby during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on February 25. The Illini lost 74-47.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Malcolm Hill dribbles around Indiana's OG Anunoby during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on February 25. The Illini lost 74-47.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Malcolm Hill dribbles around Indiana's OG Anunoby during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on February 25. The Illini lost 74-47.

By Eli Schwadron

On Jan. 7, 2015, swingman Malcolm Hill dropped 28 points en route to a 64-57 win over heavy favorite and then-No.11 Terrapins.ch

With leading scorer Rayvonte Rice out due to a broken hand, Hill, a sophomore at the time, had his coming-out party as an Illini. He had everything going on offense — midrange jumpers, 3-pointers, finishes at the rim — and Maryland had no answer.

Fourteen months later, the Illini get a chance at back-to-back upsets against the Terrapins. Illinois (13-16, 5-11 Big Ten) heads to College Park to face No. 14 Maryland (23-6, 11-5 Big Ten) in a Thursday night tilt.ch

Head coach John Groce said Maryland’s size up front reminds him a bit of another conference foe.

“Their size, their athleticism on the defensive end reminds me a lot of Purdue,” Groce said. “They’re just enormous. They affect two-point field goal percentage at that size, and they’re a great shot-blocking team.”

Freshman Diamond Stone (13 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.8 BPG) and junior Robert Carter Jr. (12.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG) will be tough covers for an undersized and undermanned Illinois squad. Center Maverick Morgan and power forward Michael Finke will be tasked with guarding Maryland’s dynamic frontcourt and competing on the glass.jo

“I do think rebounding will be important, I think taking care of the ball and shot selection will be important,” Groce said. “You don’t want to have wasted possessions and you don’t want to give them extra possessions via the backboard.”

But the Illini will also have to contain the Terps’ talented backcourt, led by lightning-quick point guard, Melo Trimble (14.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.3 RPG).jo

“Obviously, they have a very dominant and gifted point guard (in Trimble),” Groce said. “And their two-guard, Rasheed Sulaiman, who transferred from Duke, has really made an impact on their team, a prolific scorer.”

Though Maryland boasts a 15-1 home record, Trimble and the Terps have cooled off as of lately. UMD has lost three of its last four games, and Trimble has committed a whopping 19 turnovers over that stretch.

Hill and fellow guard Kendrick Nunn collected four steals apiece in Sunday night’s 84-71 victory over Minnesota, and Illinois translated several of those takeaways into fastbreak points in the second half. The junior co-captains will look to keep the pressure on in Thursday’s game.jo

“In the second half against Minnesota, our energy level, our inspiring effort, our attention to detail, our pace – all those things were just really good,” Groce said. “We’ve got to build on that. (On Monday), we might’ve had our best practice of the year.”

Hill was somewhat unknown to the rest of the country early in his sophomore season. But after pouring in 28 points and leading Illinois over nationally ranked Maryland, opposing teams began to take notice of the 6-foot-6, Fairview Heights native.

There’s no hiding anymore.

This is Hill’s team, and Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon will try everything he can to stop the Big Ten’s third-leading scorer. UMD is once again the prohibitive favorite, but no Terrapin player has had as complete of a season as Hill.

Come Thursday night, can Malcolm conjure more magic against Maryland?

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