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Illinois upsets No. 11 Maryland

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Without leading scorer and rebounder Rayvonte Rice, it appeared Illinois had little chance of beating 11th-ranked Maryland Wednesday night.

That was until sophomore guard Malcolm Hill decided to have the best game of his college career.

Pumping in 18 of his game-high 28 points after halftime, Hill led the Fighting Illini to a 64-57 Big Ten Conference upset win over the Terrapins.

With Rice, who broke his left hand in practice Monday, sidelined for an undetermined period after undergoing surgery earlier Wednesday, Hill took up the offensive slack. The 6-foot-6 Hill scored 12 points in Illinois’ 20-3 run that opened the second half and gave it a 46-31 advantage.

“The last time I felt that locked in was in high school when I scored 40 points,” said Hill, whose previous career high was 20 points on Dec. 9 against Villanova. “I didn’t want to say that I looked to shoot a lot, but they told me to keep being aggressive.”

Hill mixed midrange jumpers with 3-pointers, bringing the crowd of 12,896 that braved wind chills of nearly 30-below zero outside the State Farm Center to its feet repeatedly. His 3-point shot from the right wing with 17 minutes left snapped a 28-28 tie, and another 3 over 6-foot-11 forward Damonte Dodd with 13:52 left made it 39-31.

Guard Ahmad Starks capped the game-breaking spurt with a fallaway 3-pointer at the 12:06 mark. Maryland (14-2, 2-1) simply couldn’t catch up, even though it got as close as five points in the final minute on a barrage of 3-pointers.

“Illinois was terrific tonight,” Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon said. “I challenged our guys to guard (Hill) at halftime and no one did that. We let our offense affect our defense.”

While Hill impacted the game’s texture offensively, senior center Nnanna Egwu controlled the lane. Egwu delivered 11 points and nine rebounds while rejecting four shots and altering others.

Freshman point guard Jaylon Tate, who replaced Rice and his 17.2 points per game in the starting lineup, contributed 10 points, four assists and one turnover in 31 efficient minutes.

All in all, it was a much-needed result for the Fighting Illini (11-5, 1-2), who were coming off consecutive conference losses at Michigan and Ohio State.

“We talked about playing inspired,” Egwu said. “We didn’t write ourselves off. No one in the locker room came up to me and said we’re done. It was big for us to come out and play for each other.”

Freshman point guard Melo Trimble scored 17 points to pace Maryland, while forward Jake Layman added 10 despite playing only 1:50 of the first half after drawing two fouls. The Terrapins canned just 19 of 52 field-goal attempts as Illinois kept them off-balance by mixing man-to-man with a 2-3 zone.

“We play those defenses throughout the year, but not with that frequency of change,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “I thought our guys were pretty good with it. They understood what we were looking for.”

Maryland was aiming for its best start in school history and actually carried a 28-26 lead into halftime despite converting just 37 percent of its field-goal attempts. But the Terrapins simply couldn’t stop Hill or find an antidote for the rangy Egwu’s intelligent defense.

“You don’t ever like to lose, but maybe we needed this,” Turgeon said. “We never quit, but it’s always tough on the road and we didn’t handle it well tonight.”

NOTES: Wednesday night’s contest was Illinois’ only home game in its first five Big Ten games. It’s the first conference team since Ohio State in 2009-10 to play four of its first five Big Ten games away. … Entering Wednesday, Maryland had held six of its previous seven opponents under 40 percent from the field, and leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (36.9) and 3-point percentage defense (29.8). … The Fighting Illini entered this game ranked third in Division I at the foul line, canning 77.6 percent.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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