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Good Morning, Illini Nation: Spark off the bench

Feb. 18—Sign up for our daily basketball newsletter here

Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team and college basketball at large:

Illinois tightened up its rotation Saturday at Maryland. Quincy Guerrier's 20 minutes were the fewest among the starters, with Terrence Shannon Jr. playing 39 minutes, Marcus Domask 38 and Coleman Hawkins 37.

And Illini coach Brad Underwood really only went to his bench for one guy. Justin Harmon played 26 minutes — nearly double the playing time of Luke Goode (9 minutes), Dain Dainja (2 minutes) and Amani Hansberry (1 minute) combined.

Harmon finished Illinois' 85-80 win against the Terrapins with 10 points, including a key layup in the final minutes of the game, and three rebounds. The 6-foot-4 guard did knock down a corner three late in the first half — the only make from deep in the Illini's final 13 attempts — but more turned up his assertiveness attacking the basket in the second half.

"They're one of the top 10 teams in the country in not giving up threes," Underwood said of Maryland. "There's very little opportunity for spray-out threes. We knew that going in and spent a lot of time talking about that. You've got to be able to drive the ball.

"The first time Justin drove the ball, great drive, but he jumped off one leg and somebody spiked it. Late he went in with some assertiveness and two-foot jump stops and finished and got fouled. He's been great, and we need him. I was made he gave up a three late. That's a mistake you can't make in March."