By Gill Vesely
Coming off three losses in their last four games, the Maryland Terrapins looked to get back on track and prove their dominance Thursday against the Illinois Fighting Illini in College Park.
Thanks to remarkable three-point shooting in the second half, the Terps were able to knock off the Illini handily, winning by a 26-point margin.
Before the game, the Terps celebrated Senior Day, honoring the team’s four seniors: Varun Ram, Trevor Anzmann, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman.
“Really happy for our team,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “Really happy for our seniors. It’s a fun night.”
Diamond Stone put the Terps up two to open the game. The Maryland defense then forced the Illini into a shot clock violation. Melo Trimble hit a three to put the Terps up 5-0 with about seventeen and a half minutes remaining in the half.
Illinois finally got on the board thanks to a Maverick Morgan hoop with 14:12 left in the half. Morgan converted on an and-one to bring it to 11-7, Terps, a few minutes later.
Morgan continued to find the bottom of the net for the Illini, scoring nine of the team’s 11 points by the 9:00 mark. At the 7:52 media timeout, Trimble led the Terps with seven points while Jared Nickens had five.
Kendrick Nunn drained a long ball to bring Illinois within three at 19-16, Terps, forcing a Maryland timeout with about six and a half minutes remaining in the first half. Nickens answered with a three on the next possession.
Sulaimon (nine assists) sunk a three, his only basket of the game, to stretch the Maryland lead to 25-18. Illinois then committed another shot clock violation before the 3:55 media timeout.
Trimble found Robert Carter Jr. late in the half to add two more for the Terps. Carter then displayed some fancy footwork in the paint to bring it to 29-19, Maryland. Layman finished on a feed from Nickens, but Morgan would get one more to go before the half came to a close.
At the break, the Terps led 31-21 behind eight points from Nickens and seven points and six rebounds from Trimble. Morgan led the Illini with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Trimble sank a three early in the second half to put the Terps up 36-25. Layman followed with a three to stretch his team’s lead to 14. Nickens then joined in on Maryland’s three-point party to make it 42-25. Illinois was forced to call a timeout with 15:48 remaining.
“My teammates did a good job finding me and I just knocked them down,” Nickens said of the four threes he finished with. “The momentum was good moving forward from there on.”
Nunn got a three to go following the 11:57 media timeout, but Layman answered with another three on the other end.
Trimble capitalized on Illinois head coach John Groce’s technical foul with less than 11 minutes remaining by sinking both free throws. Trimble then got back-to-back hoops to give Maryland its largest lead at that point, 56-34.
Layman drained another three – his third of the game – with a hand in his face and 8:33 left on the clock, but Morgan added his twentieth and twenty-first points on the other side of the ball.
The Terps’ offense broke open their lead to 66-43 to force another Illinois timeout with just under five and a half minutes left in the contest.
“I thought that they played terrific offensively,” Groce said of the Terps’ second half. “That was as good an offensive performance in a half that we’ve seen.”
Carter got into the three-point mood with one of his own with 4:38 remaining, then another about 30 seconds later, to put it at 74-43.
Ram entered the game with about three minutes left, his first appearance of the day, with the Terps up 76-48. Anzmann and freshman Andrew Terrell came in for the Terps about a minute later. Sulaimon and Layman sat down after receiving a standing ovation from the home crowd.
Ram nailed a three – assisted by Anzmann – with 23 seconds left to give Maryland a 81-53 lead and send the crowd of an announced 17,950 people into a frenzy of applause. The senior then dribbled out the clock to make the 81-55 victory official and give the Terps a noteworthy win in their last regular-season home game of the year.
“I was a little sad at the end,” Nickens said. “That was Jake and Rasheed and Varun and Trevor’s last [regular-season home] game, but I’m thankful for everything that they’ve done for us and myself.”
Layman and Trimble led the Terps offensively, finishing with 18 points apiece. Nickens and Carter finished with 14 points each. For the Illini, Morgan recorded team-high totals in points (21) and rebounds (10). The Terps shot 56 percent from three for the game, including 76.9 percent (10-of-13) in the second half. The Illini were held to 38.6 percent shooting from the field for the game.
Next up for Illinois is Penn State on March 6. The Terps look to face Indiana the same day.