Terps looking for fast start to Big Ten play

Feature photo courtesy of Lauren Anikis/Stories Beneath the Shell.

Last year when Maryland played Illinois there was no contest, the Terrapins throttled the Fighting Illini. The two teams start Big Ten play with completely different lineups in what will be a completely different game.

Maryland lost four of their five starters from last year, with returning only Melo Trimble, while the Fighting Illini return only two starters, Malcolm Hill and 3-point specialist Jalen Coleman-Lands, from last year.

Maryland will play their first Big Ten conference game with their new-look lineup against Illinois Tuesday evening in College Park.

Illinois is much improved from last year, where they went 5-13 in the Big Ten and they are expecting to compete with top teams in the conference this season.

The Fighting Illini average 80 points per game, which is up from 72 per game last season. Their shooting is also up to 47.8 percent and 39.7 percent from three compared to last year’s 43.2 percent and 26.3 percent from three.

So far during Maryland’s 12-1 season, they have yet to look like a complete team throughout an entire game.

Maryland struggled in the first half against Charlotte last game, like most games this season, but spectacular second-half shooting carried them to a victory.

Maryland is riding a five-game winning streak into conference play, while the Fighting Illini have won six straight heading into conference play.

If the Fighting Illini want to continue their winning streak, Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy candidate Malcolm Hill has to play well. Hill has scored double figures in seven straight games and 11 of 12 games against Division I teams this year.

Hill, the Big Ten’s third leading scorer, is the heart-and-soul of Illinois for another year, averaging a team-high 18.4 points per game and he is also second on the team in rebounding, recording 6.3 per game.

Sixth-year senior Tracy Abrams returned to the floor this year for the Fighting Illini after missing two straight years due to torn right ACL in 2014 and a torn left Achilles tendon last year.

Abrams led Illinois in assists his sophomore and junior year and averages 11.9 points per game this year, which is second on the team.

Illinois is without their second-leading scorer from last year, junior guard Kendrick Nunn, after he pled guilty to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge last year. Nunn transferred to Oakland this offseason.

Senior forward Damonte Dodd’s status is still uncertain for tomorrow’s game and that could cause some trouble for Maryland tomorrow. Fighting Illini center Maverick Morgan is on a hot streak, averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in his last two games and he’ll be looking to exploit the Terrapins lack of depth at the forward position.

Forwards Michal Cekovsky and Ivan Bender will have to play the best defense they’ve played all year against Fighting Illini centers Morgan and Mike Thorne Jr. who average a combined 22 points per game on 66.7 percent shooting. Morgan is also coming off a season-high 19 point performance his last time out against Missouri.

Dion Wiley will “most likely play,” according to Turgeon, after sitting out against Charlotte with a sprained left wrist.

Edited by Austin Kleber.