Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#721 Illinois 147 vs.
#722 Maryland -10.5
Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 5:00pm EST
Written by Benjamin Hayes

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#721 University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
#722 University of Maryland, College Park
6-2
9-0
14-19
17-15-2
17-15-1
14-19-1
72
71
75
65

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This article covers a past game!

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Illinois takes on No. 3 Maryland from College Park on Saturday afternoon. Last season, the Fighting Illini got the upset on the road, 78-67. This Illini team has been a little more inconsistent as they lost at Arizona, 90-69 on Nov. 10 and fell to Miami-Florida, 81-79 at home on Dec. 2 in the ACC/Big 10 challenge.

The Terps are undefeated, having crushed Notre Dame, 72-51 on Wednesday at home. They still have not played a true road game and will finally have that test on Dec. 10 from Penn State.

Too many mistakes on defense

Illinois has four starters returning from a 12-21 team that showed some promise, especially in that Maryland win. But they still have work to do on the defensive end. That showed in their 81-79 loss to Miami-Florida on Monday at home. The Illini came back from a 27-point first half lead, that saw the Hurricanes make 18 of their first 23 shots. But in the second half, Illinois committed just two turnovers and wound up shooting 53% from the floor. However, they committed 13 turnovers overall and allowed the Canes to shoot 59% from the floor and 10-of-18 (56%) from beyond the arc. They really struggled to contain 5-7 Miami guard Chris Lykes, who scored 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting.

Center Kofi Cockburn (16.3ppg, 11.0rpg) led Illinois in scoring with 23 points, while guard Trent Frazier (10.3ppg, 2.8apg) added 14 points for the Illini. Wing Ayo Dosunmu was held to 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting. He averages 15.8 points and 3.5 assists for the Illini.

On the season, Illinois averages 87.1 points per game on 51.2% shooting and 34.1% from beyond the arc. On defense, they are allowing 69.8 points per game on 42.9% shooting (35.2% 3pt). They are just dominating teams on the boards (+17.5), but they are hurt themsleves with turnovers (15.9 per game).

Terps starting to look dominant

This could be 9-0 Maryland's biggest test of the season, but you could have said that about Marquette (84-63 win) and Notre Dame (72-51). The Terps got off to another slow start against the Irish on Wednesday, but they were still winning by 12 at the half. Their defense was dominant as they held Notre Dame to just 29% shooting (7-25 3pt). They outrebounded them by eight and shot 40% from the field (8-29 3pt). When and if the Terps start knocking down threes, they'll be nearly impossible to beat because their defense has been on point.

How are they winning on defense? Jalen "Sticks" Smith (6-10, 225) put on 25 pounds from last season, but still on the thin side to play center. He dominated defensively with 15 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks against the Irish. He's averaging 13.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Maryland has a 7-2 freshman in Chol Marial, who has been out with injuries but could come back in 2-3 weeks. Good luck to post players when they go up against a player with a 7-11 wingspan.

Maryland is averaging 80 points per game but shooting just 44.6% from the field and 31.1% from beyond the arc. They are playing with pretty good pace this year, ranking 134th with 73.2 possessions per game and they are forcing 14.9 turnovers per game.

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Maryland is a bit overvalued because they are not shooting the ball well. They are also playing a smaller lineup with Smith at center, and the Illini owns a 7-0, 290-pound Cockburn, who can overpower "Sticks". They also have 6-9, 235-pound Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who averages 10.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. Dosonmu had a big game last season in College Park with 20 points and six assists. I expect this game to be closer than expected and could come down to the wire. At some point, Maryland's poor perimeter shooting is going to come back to haunt them.

Prediction: Illinois +10.5

Full-Game Total Pick

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Yes, Brad Underwood's team stunk defensively in their last game against Miami. But their seasonal defensive stats are fine and his teams are usually ok on defense. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon emphasizes defense and it shows this season because he has some long, athletic defenders led by Smith and junior guard Daryl Morsell, who is one of the best defensive guards in the Big 10. That being said, despite a pretty fast pace, the defense will shine in this game so go under.

Prediction: Under 148.5
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Written By Benjamin Hayes

Ben has been a sports writer for over 30 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for over 25 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13!