Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Maryland Terrapins Pick & Prediction JANUARY 14th 2024

By now Illinois has erased doubts about whether the suspension of leading scorer Terrence Shannon Jr. might damage the Fighting Illini goal of making a run to the NCAA Tournament.

The 10th-ranked Fighting Illini, who are 3-1 without Shannon, have a shot at win No. 13 on Sunday when they welcome Maryland to Champaign for a Big Ten Conference matchup.

“Nobody has an ego on this team,” guard Ty Rodgers said when asked to explain their success minus Shannon, who was averaging 21.7 points per game when Illinois suspended him. “Everybody has one common goal and that’s to win the game. Every night, you’re going to have somebody else.

“We’re all happy for each other. I think that’s the biggest thing with this team. That goes into why we’re so connected.”

Illinois (12-3, 3-1) appeared fully connected in a 71-68 conference win Thursday night at home against Michigan State. Rodgers, Coleman Hawkins and Marcus Domask each scored 15 points to lead five players in double figures, while Quincy Guerrier and Justin Harmon added 10 apiece.

The explosive Rodgers took advantage of the Spartans trying to guard him with big men, driving constantly to the bucket. Hawkins canned 3 of 5 3-pointers, burnishing his reputation as a top pick-and-flare big man, and Domask continued to shine in multiple categories.

Even though he was just 4 of 12 from the field, Domask made key free throws down the stretch while adding six rebounds and five assists. The guy who scored more than 1,600 points in a good four-year career at Southern Illinois is tallying 14.1 ppg in his only year in the Big Ten while leading the team in assists at 3.3 per game.

Illini coach Brad Underwood was happy with the grit his team showed against a desperate Michigan State team that didn’t want to drop to 1-4 in the league.

“I like our chemistry,” he said. “When we had to get stops and rebound the basketball, we did it at a pretty high level.”

Meanwhile, the Terrapins (10-6, 2-3) erased a 12-point halftime deficit Thursday night to post a 64-57 conference win over visiting Michigan. Donta Scott scored 20 of his game-high 22 points in the final 15 1/2 minutes, going 5 of 6 from the field — he hit four 3-pointers — and 6 of 6 at the line.

Scott said he derived motivation from Michigan forward Will Tschetter staring him down after he powered through Scott for a layup.

“After the staredown, I knew he couldn’t stop me,” said Scott, who had 12 points in Maryland’s win over Illinois in College Park last season.

Maryland coach Kevin Willard had faith that Scott would bounce back from a slow start.

“He was very, very animated in the huddle before we went out,” Willard said. “He just did what a senior does.”

Given that Scott is averaging 14.7 ppg and hitting 15 of 31 from 3-point range over the last six games, it seemed inevitable he’d find the range. Illinois allowed nine 3-pointers to the Terrapins when they met a year ago.

In the win this week over Michigan, the Terps also got a sterling performance from Julian Reese, who contributed 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Maryland has won eight of the last 10 matchups with Illinois and four of the past five in Champaign.

–Field Level Media

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