Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Turnovers and poor transition defense plague No. 13 Maryland in loss to Illinois at Madison Square Garden

In front of a packed house at the world’s most famous arena, Illinois (6-14 2-7 B1G) stunned No.13 Maryland (16-5 7-3 B1G) and their fans with a 78-67 win, led by strong defense and the duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Tevian Jones who combined for 38 points. Stifling the Maryland offense and converting at the free throw line, the Illini pulled away in the final minute.

Before today’s game, Maryland had been doing a better job of ball security, a sign of growth from the fifth youngest team in the country. However, today was different, the stifling quick Illinois defense forced Maryland into 21 turnovers and never allowed the quarterback of the Maryland offense Anthony Cowan Jr to get going. Illinois scored 27 points off of the turnovers, quickly pushing the ball into transition setting up facebreak opportunities.

Three different Terps finished with at least four turnovers, struggling with the Illini’s quick defensive rotations and length. The Illini employed several defenses including zone and man to man throughout trying to confuse Maryland and limit the success of Bruno Fernando, Maryland’s scoring leader. Fernando whose ball security has improved significantly since his freshman season, finished with four turnovers and could not get going in the second half.

Maryland started out of the gates strong, Fernando and Jalen Smith scored 11 early points doing whatever they wanted inside. As the first half progressed, Maryland began to build a lead with 5:35 remaining the Terps led by 11. However, Maryland would not score another field goal the remainder of the first half, struggling to adjust to the Illini defense. While the Terps could not score, Illinois put together a 9-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to just four at halftime allowing them to build momentum entering the second half.

“I felt good, I felt pretty positive about the flow of the game and the way the guys were all battling,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said.

After trimming the lead, the Illini came out on the floor in the second half extremely confident knocking down four threes, three of which came in transition jumping out to a quick 42-40 lead. Jones who had been struggling shooting entering the game, knocked down several threes to start the second half. Head coach Mark Turgeon extremely frustrated with his transition defense called timeout to adjust and soon after Maryland went on a 7-0 run to retake the lead 47-42.

“I thought what really hurt us for the second game in a row was our transition defense, we gave up three wide open threes to start the second half and gave them a lot of confidence,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.

Both teams still battling, Cowan scored five consecutive points for Maryland once again allowing them to build a five point lead 57-52. On the ensuing possession, Cowan fed Fernando inside who could not finish the layup, a trend that would continue for Maryland going the next six minutes with only one field goal.

“It felt like we were stuck on 57 forever,” Turgeon said.

Down the stretch Illinois was perfect at the line and forced the Maryland guards into tough positions, having to make tough passes. Dosunmu and the rest of the Illini defense keyed in on Cowan, Maryland’s best facilitator not allowing him to find open teammates. After forcing several turnovers Illinois capitalized in transition with their quick guard duo of Trent Frazier and Dosunmu.

Maryland will now look to bounce back on Thursday when they host Northwestern at the Xfinity Center.