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Maryland men’s basketball upsets No. 10 Illinois, 76-67, for first signature win of season | TAKEAWAYS

Maryland men’s basketball is seizing its opportunity.

Three days after using a furious second-half rally to dispose of a Michigan team missing its leading scorer, the Terps took advantage of 48 combined points from Jahmir Young and Julian Reese to upset No. 10 Illinois without its star, 76-67, on Sunday afternoon at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois.

Maryland (11-6, 3-3 Big Ten) outscored the Fighting Illini, 52-26, in the paint. The Terps overtook Illinois for a 47-46 lead in the first five minutes of the second half and did not relinquish it.

The Terps collected their most significant win since stunning then-No. 3 Purdue, 68-54, at home on Feb. 16, 2023. The victory was also the program’s first against a top-10 opponent on the road since a 70-64 shocker at then-No. 6 Wisconsin on Dec. 28, 2020.

Young, a fifth-year senior point guard, paced Maryland with game highs in both points (28 on 11 of 24 shooting) and assists (eight). Reese, a junior power forward who grew up in Randallstown and graduated from St. Frances, chipped in 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting and 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.

The Fighting Illini (12-4, 3-2) lost for the second time in their past three games. They could have used the services of fifth-year senior shooting guard Terrence Shannon Jr., who continues to lead the team in scoring at 21.7 points per game and rank fifth in rebounding at 4.5 per game despite his indefinite suspension late last month after an arrest related to a rape charge.

Maryland capitalized on a depleted opponent for the second game in a row. It edged the Wolverines, 64-57, on Thursday night one day after Michigan suspended sophomore point guard Dug McDaniel (seventh in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.8 points per game) to concentrate on his academics.

Here are three observations from Sunday’s win.

Jahmir Young and Julian Reese shone brightest for Maryland when the team needed them

All season, Young and Reese have been the Terps’ top producers, and they reaffirmed their status at Illinois.

Young’s 28 points were tied for his second most this season, and he has scored 20 points or more in five of his past six starts. His eight assists were a season best and one shy of his career high.

“He’s starting to get back into a rhythm,” coach Kevin Willard said of Young, who missed a 75-53 rout of Coppin State on Dec. 28 with the flu. “He scores 37 at UCLA and then he gets the flu real bad and doesn’t practice. It looks like he’s getting back to his rhythm. He’s just a kid that loves to win and wants to win.”

Reese has totaled 48 points, 33 rebounds, nine blocks and six steals in his past three games. This most recent eruption began after a zero-point outing in a 67-53 loss to No. 1 Purdue on Jan. 2.

Reese and Young anchored Maryland in each of the game’s halves. In the first, Reese compiled 11 points, seven rebounds (including two on the offensive glass) and two steals. In the second, Young racked up 16 points and six assists.

The stars were aligned for the Terps, who will continue to need strong showings from Young, Reese and fifth-year senior small forward Donta Scott (nine points and five rebounds) to make some waves in the Big Ten.

Maryland went to a strength to avoid settling for a weakness

The Terps’ Achilles heel this winter has been inconsistent 3-point shooting. That deficiency returned, but they adjusted and relied on their assets.

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Maryland doubled up Illinois in the paint. From Reese’s work in the lane to Young’s drives to the bucket to senior small forward Jordan Geronimo’s dunks, the offense flourished when attacking the Fighting Illini on the interior.

Unable to find much rhythm from behind the 3-point arc, the Terps went away from that style in the second half, taking only five long-distance attempts. Instead, they penetrated and looked for opportunities closer to the basket.

Willard said the coaches were eager to establish a presence in the post.

“We wanted to give it to Julian Reese and just pound the ball inside,” he said. “And I think when we can pound the ball inside to him and we can continue to do that on a constant basis, it eases everything else off of everybody else.”

And Reese might have further motivation when the two teams meet again on Feb. 17 in College Park. He got into a shouting match with Illinois assistant Tim Anderson after the coach declined to shake Reese’s hand in the postgame exchange.

The short-range, high-percentage chances in the lane contributed to the Terps converting 46.2% (30 of 65) of its shots from the floor — their best field-goal efficiency against a Big Ten opponent this season. Other games left on the schedule might require different strategies, but Maryland would be wise to take stock of their strengths and employ them heavily.

The perimeter offense wasn’t pretty, but made a couple of key contributions

Maryland’s reputation for struggling from long distance won’t change for the better after its performance against Illinois.

The Terps connected on only 23.5% (4 of 17) of its 3-pointers, including just 16.7% (2 of 12) in the first half. They missed their first six shots from behind the arc before Scott canned one midway through the opening period.

As previously mentioned, the offense took only five attempts from long distance in the second half, but two of them loomed large. First, Geronimo’s 3-pointer about eight minutes into the period not only gave Maryland a 52-48 lead but marked his first successful jumper from that range since Dec. 22 at UCLA — a span of five games.

And freshman shooting guard DeShawn Harris-Smith’s 3-pointer with four minutes remaining widened the Terps’ advantage to 66-59. It was his lone 3-pointer in five attempts.

“They work so hard at it,” Willard said. “Eventually, it’s got to go in because you’re working at it. They make them at practice, they work at it. They’re in the gym every morning at 7 a.m. So I just keep telling them to shoot it, and you have to have confidence that the work they’re going to put in is going to come to the court eventually.”

Maryland at Northwestern

Wednesday, 9 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: 105.7 FM