Maryland men’s basketball had no answer for Illinois and its dominance in the paint and consequently fell to 0-3 in conference play as they lost, 76-64.
Illinois star center Kofi Cockburn dominated the game with 23 points and 18 rebounds, most of which came in the second half.
“[Kofi’s] always been a challenge,” said forward Donta Scott. “He made a big difference when he was on the court.”
In the first five minutes, Illinois got off to a hot 15-4 start. The Fighting Illini’s lead jumped to 21-7 at one point before Maryland found their footing through attacking the paint.
The lane quickly opened up after Cockburn recorded two early fouls, which forced him to the bench for the final 12 minutes of the half. And without the Illini star center, the Terps thrived as they finished the half on a 27-9 run. Maryland had come all the way back and at halftime it had a four-point, 34-30, lead.
With Cockburn back in the game for the second half, it was a closer match for the first five minutes. And despite Maryland’s willingness to throw more of its weight in the paint, Cockburn proved to be resilient enough to withstand the Terps’ new frontcourt.
Julian Reese put up an impressive performance so early in his collegiate career. His plus/minus of three was the only positive rating on the entire lineup.
“[Reese] kind of reminded me of my freshman year,” interim head coach Danny Manning said. “The first game I played against was Lenny Bias. I walked away from that game impressed by Lenny Bias, but I also walked away saying, ‘You know what? If I can keep up with him, if I can compete with him, I’m going to have a chance to do something special.”
Reese, however, along with Qudus Wahab, would foul out of the game as Cockburn continued to control the paint.
“Kofi is one of the most dominant bigs in the country,” Manning said. “When he’s able to carve out space like he did today, he’s a tough cover.”
Illinois dominance close to the basket allowed for a spread offense, in which Illinois capitalized. The Fighting Illini started heating up with a 12-0 run which included eight straight points from Trent Frazier. This gave Illinois a seven-point cushion. Maryland never got the lead back.
Despite the loss, Danny Manning still believes that his team will turn it around.
“We have shown we can compete with teams in this league,” said Manning. “We just have to continue to work to get better and finish games in a manner that will give us a chance to be successful.”
Maryland returns to College Park on Sunday as it looks to get its first conference win of the season against another tough opponent in No. 23 Wisconsin.