COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WCIA) — Bloodied and bruised in its first Big Ten battle, No. 16 Illinois was one play away from erasing a 12-point deficit and completing the comeback at No. 22 Maryland. The stars did not align though for the Illini in College Park, as a Jahmir Young 3 was the final dagger in a deafening Xfinity Center on Friday. As tough as the loss is to take for the young Illini, they say it provides some much needed experience.
“Last year’s team, and the years before, we were a veteran team,” Illinois junior forward Coleman Hawkins said. “In games like this we would pull through, but tonight I think moments shined where you saw we weren’t prepared for moments like this. We’re going to learn a lot from this here. We’ve got 19 more of these, just like these. It’s going to be like this every night in the Big Ten.”
Shaking off a rough first half, the Illini (6-2, 0-1 B1G) defense helped keep it close, holding the Terps (8-0, 1-0 B1G) to just eight made field goals after the break.
“I loved our D,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “Hold them to 35 percent in the second half, 25 from behind the line, you should win. Even on the road when you guard like that.”
The lessons learned for the Illini will have to put to good use quick, as the road doesn’t get any easier from here. Illinois has a date at Madison Square Garden in New York City with No. 2 Texas awaiting on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic.