Two teams that need a win for different reasons take the Big Ten show to New York's Madison Square Garden on Saturday, when Illinois plays Maryland.
No. 13 Maryland (16-4, 7-2) lost for the first time in eight games Monday and needs a win to stay in touch with the conference leaders. The still-surprising Spartans are coming off a 69-55 loss to No. 6 Michigan State.
The Illini (5-14, 1-7) have had a tougher time in Big Ten play, but they made a good showing Wednesday at home before falling to Wisconsin 72-60.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood could use a win to prove that his young team is on the right path.
"It doesn't take very much to remember back early in the season when we were a team struggling with (focus)," Underwood said Wednesday. "I thought our defense was great. Our fight and intensity was pretty good. ... We're getting better defensively."
Illinois needs to be better against a Terrapins team that averages 75.6 points per game but is coming off a game in which it tied its lowest offensive output of the season.
Maryland does not lack for weapons. Junior guard Anthony Cowan averages 17.4 points per game, but he is coming off one of his poorest performances with just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.
The Terrapins also boast 6-foot-10 Bruno Fernando (14.4 points, 10.4 rebounds per game) and 6-10 Jalen Smith (11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), part of a young rotation that includes seven freshmen or sophomores in the top eight.
Fernando is second in the conference in shooting percentage (67.5), and his matchup inside against 6-9 freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili could be one of the keys to Saturday's contest.
Bezhanishvili is averaging 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds for Illinois, and he is coming off a great game Wednesday, out-dueling Badgers star big man Ethan Happ. Bezhanishvili had 20 points and eight rebounds and has scored at least 15 points in four of the past six games.
Fellow freshman Ayo Dosunmu had his hot hand cooled a little with just eight points on 4-of-16 shooting Wednesday. He had led the team in scoring in the previous six contests. Dosunmu, a five-star prospect out of Chicago, is averaging 13.9 points per game after arriving as Illinois' highest-rated recruit since Dee Brown in 2002.
The Terrapins' 34.4 percent shooting against the Spartans on Monday was their second-worst mark of the season.
The Terrapins are hitting 47.0 percent this year, but their 13.1 turnovers per game is one of the Big Ten's highest rates and could play right into the hands of Illinois sophomore guard Trent Frazier. He is the team's leading scorer at 14.3 points and is also second in the Big Ten with 1.8 steals per game.
Meanwhile, Bezhanishvili and the smaller Illini could have a hard time holding Fernando and Smith off the boards. Maryland is second only to Michigan State in rebound margin at plus-10.3 per game. Illinois' minus-2.8 mark is the worst in the conference.
"We just made too many mistakes and looked really young tonight," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon after the Michigan State game.
"We looked really young compared to (the Spartans). But we'll get better. It's good for our guys to know how tough it is to face an elite team on their home court. We have a long ways to go. We've come a long way, but there's still room for improvement."
Maryland gave up a home game for this neutral-site matchup as part of the Big Ten's annual Super Saturday College Hoops & Hockey doubleheader. Following the basketball game at Madison Square Garden, Penn State and Michigan will play a conference hockey match.--Field Level Media
Updated January 25, 2019