Illinois Basketball: Breaking Down Illini Win Against Maryland

The Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team scored an impressive 71-62 victory against the Maryland Terrapins on Tuesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Illini were led by senior point guard Sam Maniscalco, who scored 24 points, made five three-pointers and was 7-for-7 from the free throw line. He also showed some much needed leadership for the young Illini.

For the night, three Illinois players ended up in double figures: Maniscalco (24 points), Brandon Paul (17) and Meyers Leonard (12). Maryland’s leading scorer was Terrell Stoglin, with 25 points.

The Illini have seemingly found the best starting five on their roster: Maniscalco, Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Leonard. With those five guys on the court, the Illini have threats from the three-point line (Maniscalco, Richardson and even Griffey), a legitimate post presence (Leonard) and a slasher who can create points off the dribble (Paul).

They also have plenty of depth on the bench, with Crandall Head, Mike Shaw and Nnanna Egwu available, among others. That depth wore out Maryland on Tuesday night and can help the Illini against other teams that only go seven deep too.

The team is off to a 7-0 start and are heading into a big matchup against No. 19 Gonzaga at home on Saturday afternoon. Then, they have one more tough test, a neutral site game against No. 18 UNLV on Dec. 17 in Chicago, before a big rivalry game in St. Louis against the No. 13 Missouri Tigers.

If the starting five can keep up the production they had against Maryland, there’s no reason to think they can’t get back to their winning ways against Mizzou, to whom they’ve dropped the last two Braggin’ Rights games.

They need to make sure they avoid a letdown against a lesser opponent, but this Illini team has a chance to develop into something special and make a push for the top three in the Big Ten.

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