With less than a minute to go, Maryland men’s basketball was desperate for the crucial bucket it needed to get off the road upset at 12 Illinois.
As the seconds passed, Terps turned to its longest-serving player and senior leader in Darryl Morsell. After receiving a ball from the screen by Jairus Hamilton, Morsell stepped up and brought Ayo Dosumnu to the edge. Fighting through contact in the air, Morsell tilted it out of the glass and inside, bringing Maryland forward 64-61 with 33 seconds left.
Maryland held back Illinois’ powerful attack to just two points in the final 4:08 of the game, making timely matches from both ends of the floor to pull off the road disorder, 66-63.
Despite the start of the game of the Big Ten with 2: 5, the team of head coach Mark Turgen has already upset two of the best opponents, with the then No. 6 Wisconsin like the other. And the team also avoids falling below .500 with the victory.
“We really fought tonight,”
Although the Terps were double-digit outsiders entering the race on Sunday night, they came in even shorter than expected. Prior to the announcement, it was announced that young goalkeeper Eric Ayala would not play due to a groin injury sustained against Iowa on Thursday, leaving Maryland without its leading scorer.
As a result, Turgen chose to get junior guard Aaron Wiggins to direct the guard, pairing him with sophomore Hakim Hart and Morsel in the backyard.
“It’s just a matter of everyone taking on a different role,” Wiggins said. “When you lose someone like [Ayala], everyone needs to get stronger to some degree, whether it’s energy, whether it’s guys on the bench, whether it means attacking, bouncing or playing. “
On the other hand, led by its two stars in Dosunmu and forward Kofi Cockburn, Illinois is attacking Maryland in its weakest place – the paint. The 7-foot 285-pound Cockburn immediately began trying to establish its presence on the low block, with the Terperes pitted their biggest presence in the interior with senior 6-foot 9,235-pound striker Galin Smith.
Smith turned out not to be a game in the beginning, as Cockburn routinely put the ball in deep positions and showed an impressive touch around the rim, realizing in three of his first four goal attempts within the first four minutes of the game.
The next person tasked with acting on the paint was second-grader Chol Marial. Marial seemed almost removed from the team’s rotation, playing just one minute against Indiana on Jan. 4 before seeing the floor against Iowa.
However, Turgen turned to Marial at the beginning of the first half, bringing him to the floor to provide a spark for the patient. At 13:51, Illini striker Georgie Bezhanishvili tried to retreat Marial to the low post, but the Sudanese big man remained on his feet and forced the pass.
Coming down from the other end, Marial prepares for pick-and-pop with Cyrus Hamilton, getting the pass beyond the arc and knocking it down without hesitation, reducing Maryland’s deficit to 16-14 with 13:36 remaining in the half.
But both Terpi were outscored by Cockburn as the game continued, with the center of Illini struggling to reach his seats to score 16 points in the first half.
As Ayala’s absence thins a security corps that ball manipulators already desperately needed, Maryland had to rely on a tandem of first-class guards from Marcus Dockery and Aquan Smart to take a break.
Forced to rely on two inexperienced, young players who are fighting against the best opponent in a hostile environment, Dockery and Smart did their best to keep their heads above water. Each of them was prone to an accidental mistake, whether it was moving away from the shooters at the defensive end or making live ball turns on the other side.
Maryland cooled for the resulting drought of more than three minutes in the middle of the first half, but the defense stepped up to force an equally bad shot from Illinois before Smart’s retreat left Terps behind 23-20 with just over eight minutes to half.
Although he kept Dosunmu in chess for most of the period (7 points on a 2-11 shot), Maryland’s first half looked as if it would be interrupted by another fruitless run, this time lasting almost three minutes.
But with the remaining 10 seconds, sophomore Donta Scott deviated from the line by three points and quickly got off the jumper to catch and shoot over time. Scott buried the triple, scoring 11 points in his 18 minutes on the floor to leave Terps behind 34-32 at halftime.
But the real test of Maryland’s determination in this will surely come in the second half. Illinois was the stereotypical “second-half team” this season, recently beating the Northwest 53-13 in the last 20 minutes of Thursday’s win.
At the beginning of the second half, however, Morsel decided it was time to start hunting for his shot at the offensive end. Morsell opened the scoring for Maryland in the second frame, pulling himself out of the middle class and immersing him to make Terps go fast.
Two minutes later, he took freshman Ilini guard Adam Miller to the post, turning left for another jumper who had found the bottom of the net. In the ensuing defensive possession, Morsell remained step-by-step with Dosumnu on the move to the edge and forced a pass.
Bringing the ball down to the other end, Morsell plunged around Galin Smith’s screen and stopped again from the top of the key, sinking another jump to bring Terps forward 43-41 with 16:42 in the half.
Morsell scored 11 points in the first six minutes of the half, helping Maryland start the second half by shooting 77.8% off the floor to keep pace and keep the hope of frustration alive.
“It was just a great game for him,” Wiggins said of Morsel’s performance. “He scored the ball, he bounced, he played, and he was the leader. So when he is, our team is at the top of our game. “
But with both teams on their necks, Illinois turned to its two stars when it needed them most. Dosumnu started to warm up in the second half, missing only one of his first six shots from the field to rise to 19 points by 7:00. Cockburn also continued to get as low as he wanted, overshadowing 20 points with more than six minutes of play.
“My job today was just to make it as difficult as possible for him and just win,” Morsel said.
Maryland’s attack became cold again at the wrong time, this time almost four minutes without a bucket, as the game approached a crisis. Still, the Illinois offense once again failed to take advantage of the cold spell, with Wiggins eventually ending it with a rising jumper plus a foul to level the score at 59-59 with 5:08.
Both teams continued their shooting down the stretch, the race still being taken as the minutes passed. After scoring for nearly four minutes, Morsel’s missed shot bounced right into the hands of the adult, who quickly swung it at a wide-open Hart outside the arc, burying the three-pointer to bring Maryland 62-61 by just 1: 18 to the left.
Along with the ensuing Morsell bucket, Terps’ defense carried the team down, holding Fighting Illini to no avail for four minutes before the final seconds.
“Coach Turgen always talks about valuing possessions and how one or two possessions can change the game,” Morsel said. “And as you can see a late game, it’s a one-point, two-point game. So that we have this experience and just trust each other, knowing that we’ve been there and things like that, it’s very important for sure. “
Three things you need to know
1. Maryland reacted widely again. With their season in the balance, Terps brought another incredible victory on the road against one of the best teams in the conference. After upsetting Wisconsin at Madison less than a month ago, Maryland has shown that it can beat anyone one night. Drawing victory tonight without Ayala no less, how much Maryland can accelerate the momentum of Sunday’s victory, can change the course of the season.
“It shows you they’re not giving up,” Turgen said of his players’ efforts. “Our boys are very proud. There are a lot of guys in this locker room who have won a lot of games and that rubbed off on the other guys tonight. “
Now the team defeated two top-15 teams in the same season for the first time since 2014-15, when it dropped No. 13 from Iowa and No. 5 from Wisconsin.
2. Maryland was dominated by glass. Although she has already given up some size inside, entering the game on Sunday, Maryland has complicated her problem by not effectively boxing at both ends. Illinois outscored Maryland 40-33, with Cockburn leading 10 highs. Ilini also dropped 13 offensive fights, contributing to six second chance points.
3. The Patties made the most of their free throw line. Throughout this season, Maryland struggled to force their opponents to foul on the edge and generate trips to the foul. And even when Maryland reached the charity, it shot only 67.8% as a team. But that wasn’t the case on Sunday night, as Terps came out 14-17 off the line, the most scored there in five games.