Illinois Basketball: 5 big questions for the Illini against Maryland

Jan 11, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33)
Jan 11, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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5. How will Brad Underwood break the tough Maryland defense?

While Maryland isn’t very good on the offensive end of the court, their defense is pretty talented. That is why the Terrapins have managed to win 10 games this season.

Maryland hasn’t allowed 70 points since December 6, and the only reason they allowed 75 points was due to the game going to overtime against Penn State.

So, can Illinois break through the tough Maryland defense? What does Brad Underwood have up his sleeve to penetrate one of the best defenses in the country?

To take the great Maryland defense a step further, the Terrapins are only giving up 63.3 points per game, which ranks No. 12 in the country. That is an impressive number.

I believe there is a weakness in the Terrapins’ defense, though. They aren’t great on the perimeter. Teams are shooting 34.1% from three-point range against Maryland this season, which ranks No. 219 in the country.

Illinois has the ability to shoot well from three-point range. We can’t force shots, though. The ball needs to continue moving until we find the open shot.

There is a legitimate shot Coleman Hawkins could have his best game as a member of the Illinois basketball program on Sunday. He is going to be able to pull the Maryland big men out to the three-point arc, and I expect he will have plenty of open opportunities.

Look for Justin Harmon to have a big game too. He is a great spot-up shooter, and with the ball moving so much, Harmon should be the recipient of some good perimeter passes. I fully expect another double-digit scoring night out of him.

I think Illinois can break down Maryland’s defense by penetrating and then kicking it back out too. Marcus Domask has done a great job getting into the lane. I assume Maryland will collapse on him, leaving someone open on the perimeter.

Illinois is made for this type of defense. Up until Sunday, Maryland locked their opponents down. I fully expect the Illini to buck that trend and put up at least 70 points against the Terrapins.