Illinois (12-5, 2-2), takes on the University of Maryland (15-2, 3-1) Saturday evening in Champaign. Illinois is looking to build on the momentum from their 85-69 win over Michigan, and Maryland looks for its third consecutive win after squeaking out a three-point victory over Indiana back in College Park.
Projected Starters: Tracy Abrams, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Malcolm Hill, Leron Black, Maverick Morgan
Projected Bench: Michael Finke, Te’jon Lucas, Kipper Nichols, Aaron Jordan, D.J. Williams*
John Groce will stand pat with his lineup and rotation after seeing the offense blossom against Michigan. Look for Te’jon and Kipper to be two of the first two guys off the bench again, and don’t be surprised if we don’t see any Mike Thorne Jr. or Jaylon Tate barring any foul trouble.
Groce confirmed Friday that D.J. Williams was indeed back with the team after taking a brief leave of absence and missing the last game. It was rumored that he would be transferring due to little playing time and productivity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come off the bench for a few minutes.
- Learn from your mistakes from the first Maryland game: The Illinois-Maryland game was U-G-L-Y on all ends for Illinois. The game seemed like it was out of hand by the first media timeout. Illinois needs to keep this one much closer and not let the lead balloon before settling down and playing well.
- Continue the success of the new lineup and rotation: This new lineup and rotation enabled Illinois to shoot over 60% from the field in their last game, a stat seldom that high at the end of a game. The offensive barrage is what made the last game so fun to watch for Illini fans, but as the third key points out, this Illinois lineup and rotation (and team as a whole), still have their struggles that they will need to focus on.
- Play your best defensive game of the season and hold Maryland to under 45% shooting from the field: Despite blowing out Michigan, Michigan still managed to shoot over 50% from the field, an incredible stat given the outcome of the game. Getting stops at critical times has been an Achilles heel for Illinois this year along with the entire defensive end. Illinois can’t let Melo Trimble beat them off the dribble, and can’t be late in their help defense out on the perimeter.
Prediction: It’s hard for Illinois to play much worse than their last game against Maryland. This game is at home, they’ve got some momentum, and there will even be more students back on campus to cheer the team on. But I can’t ignore the way Maryland played in round one and how their play thus far has lead them near to the top of the B1G standings. Illinois isn’t going to shoot 60% from the field again, and it’s going to be hard to stop Maryland given their defensive struggles. Maryland 80- Illinois 68.