Illini cough up big lead to Terps
Illinois falls apart late, scores 1 point in final 4:33
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Illinois looked poised for a huge road win but squandered its big chance down the stretch in a 59-58 loss at No. 3 Maryland in both teams’ Big Ten opener Saturday.
The Illini led 39-25 at halftime and pushed their lead to 15 in the second half. But they were outscored 11-1 in the game’s final 4 minutes, 33 seconds.
Illinois still led by three points with a minute left. The Terrapins’ Aaron Wiggins missed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left, but Darryl Morsell grabbed the offensive rebound and Maryland called timeout. Anthony Cowan Jr. tied the score with a 30-footer with 19 seconds to play.
The Illini had a chance to hold for the final shot, but Cowan stripped the ball from Andres Feliz in the final seconds, and he was fouled in the scrum for the ball by Feliz with 2 seconds left. Cowan made the first free throw and missed the second intentionally for the win.
“That one was one hard,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “I’m not going to lie.”
The Terrapins (10-0, 1-0) didn’t lead after halftime until Cowan’s free throw but matched their best start since winning 10 straight to open the 1998-99 season.
The loss for Illinois (6-3, 0-1) was a reverse image of its disappointing defeat to Miami in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on
Monday in Champaign. In that game, the Illini fell behind by 25 points only to have a chance to win on their final possession. They didn’t get off a shot in that situation either, as Ayo Dosunmu was called for a charge down by one in the final seconds of an 81-79 loss.
Trent Frazier scored 13 points for Illinois, which nearly claimed its first road victory over a top-five team since 1989. The Illini have lost 15 consecutive road games against ranked teams and six straight conference openers. Feliz added 11 points against the Terrapins. Kofi Cockburn had nine points and eight rebounds, and Georgi Bezhanishvili scored six points.
Both big men were saddled with foul trouble in the second half as Maryland came up with some key offensive rebounds that aided its comeback.Cowan had 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Jalen Smith (14 points, 13 rebounds) recorded his sixth doubledouble of the season for Maryland.
“We have to be better,” Cowan said. “We obviously didn’t play our best game. We’re here to win a championship. This is a good win. Not to take anything away from Illinois, they played a great game.“
Donta Scott’s basket with 1:45 remaining got Maryland within 57-55, and Frazier split two free throws 2 seconds later to put Illinois up by three before Cowan’s big shot.
“Right when he shot it, it looked perfect,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I knew it was in, and that’s just kind of what he does.
Ayo Dosunmu reacts after he was called for traveling against Maryland on Saturday.