Instant Reactions: Maryland 71, Illinois 66

In a game that brought out the Maryland legends such as Gary Williams, Scott Van Pelt, Francis Tiafoe and Sean Mosley along with football head coach Mike Locksley, Maryland basketball answered the call in its first ranked matchup of the season with a 71-66 win over 16th-ranked Illinois.

Jahmir Young finished with a game-high 24 points and was one of three players in double figures alongside Hakim Hart (17 points) and Donta Scott (12 points). With Kevin Willard’s first Big Ten win in the books, Maryland moves to 8-0 (1-0) after a thrilling, packed Xfinity Center on Friday night. Breaking down our instant reactions:

Jahmir Young Leads the Way for Maryland

It was only fitting that Jahmir Young not only opened the game’s scoring, but ended it with a three in both cases to lift Maryland past Illinois. It wasn’t the most balanced scoring night of the season, but the stars responded as Hakim Hart, Jahmir Young and Donta Scott combined for 53 points, including 35 points in the first half. An assertive Jahmir Young helped create offense inside and out as he slashed through the paint with his quick step off the bounce, which paved the way for a hot shooting night from Hakim Hart thanks to the Terps’ ball movement. Meanwhile, Hakim Hart’s ability to stretch the floor from beyond the perimeter helped give the Terps the necessary cushion before Jahmir Young chimed in, combining for 7-of-11 from deep.

Julian Reese would take just one shot in the first half and finished with five points and four fouls, but Ian Martinez proved yet again to be a spark off the bench as he’s shown already this season after finishing with eight points on 2-of-4 shooting in 20 minutes.

While Maryland was able to remain consistently efficient against Illinois, a big reason for the commanding control was thanks to the Terps’ defense through the first 25 minutes. Head coach Kevin Willard was seen screaming along the sidelines to remind his team to apply its fullcourt press, but the Terps opened up the first few possessions in a zone before switching back to man as they’ve done repeatedly through the offseason. Though he had the full attention of Willard prior to Friday, Terrance Shannon still led the way with a team-high 19 points as he shined on both ends of the floor whether it was with a soaring dunk or holding his ground against the Terps’ backcourt.

While Maryland was able to disrupt Illinois at times at the rim thanks to both Reese and Patrick Emilien, the Terps would gradually struggle with the Illini’s length at the rim with Illinois recording seven blocks on the night. Still, but the Terps were also to stand tall in the paint and disrupt Illinois at the rim to throw Coleman Hawkins off his rhythm. While Julian Reese played a hand in that, it was another game for Patrick Emilien where he played larger than the stats showed after finishing without a shot attempt and four rebounds. The Illini’s length played a bigger hand over the final ten minutes, but against an Illinois team that poses tremendous length, Maryland narrowly lost their first rebounding battle of the season 33-31.

Three Point Shooting Looms Large Early

 The three-point shooting was on full display in the win as the Terps finished 9-of-23 from deep, while holding Illinois to just 25% shooting including 18.2% from three. A big reason for that was Hakim Hart, who finished 5-of-6 from deep, but Young came up just as timely to help the Terps largely remain ahead.

After Illinois took a 14-11 lead, the Terps would go on a 17-2 run largely sparked by its three point shooting. Maryland took its first lead since the opening minute after threes from Hakim Hart and Jahmir Young initially pushed the lead to eight, prompting Illini head coach Brad Underwood to calm his team as the crowd grew louder. Maryland would stretch the lead to 12, but a 7-0 run quickly trimmed the lead to single digits before consecutive triples from Hakim Hart reestablished some cushion.

After Illinois knocked down a three to trim the lead to four, Jahmir Young would cap off the first half with his third three of the game, giving Maryland a 41-34 lead heading into halftime. Though the two teams battled in the paint and combined for 70 points, including 38 in the first half, it was the three-point shooting that ultimately helped separate the two early as Maryland shot 46.7% from deep compared to the Illini’s 33.3%.

Hart would resurface with just over six minutes left in the game, knocking down a timely three to push the lead back to five.

Illinois Takes Control of Second Half

Maryland pushed its lead back to double digits to open the second half after Don Carey made all free throws after drawing a foul on a three-point attempt, but Illinois responded with their first run of the half, this time a 7-2 run. With Julian Reese already with four fouls midway through the second half, the frontcourt’s depth took a big hit after Patrick Emilien added his fourth foul with just under eight minutes left. Willard opted to keep Emilien despite the fourth foul, but the Illini were able to capitalize. After Donta Scott knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead to 55-45, a 9-0 Illinois run over a 2:22 span made it a one-point game.

It would be none other than Hakim Hart who knocked down a three to give Maryland some breathing room, but just two minutes later, Illinois responded with their own triple to tie the game at 62 heading into the final TV timeout. One of two free throws from Julian Reese favored Maryland once again while a goaltending on a Jahmir Young shot gave Maryland a three-point lead with two minutes remaining. After Illinois responded at the rim, it would be Julian Reese’s turn to keep it a three-point game. One minute later, Jahmir Young would ice it with his fourth three of the night to send the Xfinity Center into an erupting roar.

Maryland will return to action on Tuesday night at Wisconsin for a 9 PM tip on ESPN2.