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Notes | Easy ones don't fall for Illini in home loss

Jan. 14—CHAMPAIGN — Shot selection wasn't Illinois' problem against Maryland. Shot-making, on the other hand, was a glaring issue.

The Illini shot a season-worst 33 percent Sunday afternoon at State Farm Center. Where the misses came from is what frustrated Brad Underwood the most after the Terrapins pulled off a 76-67 win against the 10th-ranked Illini.

"They're layups," the Illinois coach said. "How can you get a better shot than a layup? They're layups. The easiest shot that God created when he created the game of basketball is a layup and/or a dunk.

"A layup. A layup. And you have to learn at this level to make some contested ones sometimes. They're layups. You've seen us play all year. We make them all the time. (Sunday) we didn't."

Illinois converted its only dunk of the game. A first-half effort from Quincy Guerrier. But making 8 of 22 layups — just 36.4 percent — was a problem. And the primary reason the Illini scored just 0.737 points per possession in a second half where Maryland outscored Illinois by 11.

"I thought we just missed some shots we should have made," Illinois guard Marcus Domask said. "We had a lot of stuff rim out. They got bigs down there that might have altered our shots a little bit, but we just missed shots we usually make."

Domask led Illinois with 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Luke Goode was the only other Illini in double figures with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting. The rest of the team was just 8 of 35 from the field — 22.9 percent.

"We got in the paint and got good looks," Goode said. "We just didn't finish well in the paint (Sunday). ... We got good shots. Quincy getting downhill has been one of the most productive things that we've had all year. He just missed some ones right around the bucket. That's uncharacteristic. Justin (Harmon), too. He finishes at a high rate, and they just didn't fall. When that happens, we've got to offensive rebound better. That's on us."

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Maryland forward Julian Reese scored in a one-on-one post-up over Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins to start Sunday's game.

The first two points. Hawkins blocked Reese just 45 seconds later in a similar matchup.

Reese wound up with more of the former as the game progressed, and he finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

"Coleman's guarded great players every single night," Underwood said. "(Reese is) a really good player. ... We just gave him some gifts. Marcus ran out to a corner and left him wide open under the basket. I don't know. Mentally, we didn't have it."

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Hawkins was whistled for his second foul with eight minutes, 14 seconds left in the first half. Underwood subbed out his 6-foot-10 big man at that point, but it wasn't the traditional auto-bench with two fouls the Illini coach typically uses. Hawkins returned in the first half, but foul trouble lingered Sunday. Two fouls in five seconds in the second half sent Hawkins to the bench permanently as he fouled out. That left Illinois without its versatile linchpin facing a five-point deficit with 2:48 to play.

"I pretty much trust him," Underwood said about reinserting Hawkins into the game in the first half. "I think he's one of the best defenders in the league. We started doubling Reese to kind of protect him. Coleman had a tough day. We're never going to be the best team in the country when he's not at his best."

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Hawkins fouling out didn't mean crunch-time minutes for Dain Dainja. The Illinois big man had seven points and four rebounds in eight minutes during the first half, but he played just a single minute in the second half.

Dainja is playing just 6.2 minutes per game in five Big Ten games this season.

"Dain's going to help us," Underwood said. "We need Dain's physicality. It's not about offense. We can't throw Dain the ball 18 feet from the rim and have him shoot a 15-foot jump hook and then go down and get back screened and give up a layup.

"Dain's effective when he's four feet from the rim, and we've got to have him guarding better and not making mistakes that affect other people. That's my fault. That's my job is to get him ready for that."

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Limited minutes for Dainja meant Illinois essentially played a six-man rotation again Sunday against Maryland. While Amani Hansberry was out again with back spasms, Terrence Shannon Jr. remained suspended and Sencire Harris is still redshirting, both Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn and Nico Moretti did not play.

Both Underwood and Goode, though, said fatigue wasn't the cause for Illinois' poor second-half shooting. The Illini shot 22 percent overall in the final 20 minutes and made just 1 of 14 three-pointers (7 percent).

"Our coaches and staff do a great job of understanding what goes into games," said Goode, who played 36 minutes. Only Domask played more at 37 minutes.

"They really respect the time we need to get ready," Goode continued. "Before the games they do a great job of letting us get our bodies right. I don't think fatigue was a thing."

Underwood was adamant in saying he didn't consider fatigue a factor in how his team fared.

"No," he said. "Best conditioned team in the country with a $1 million room for recovery. No.

"That thought has never entered my mind as long as I've been a basketball coach. They're 20 years old, 22 years old. They're not getting tired. They play basketball every single day of their life."

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While Moretti didn't play against Maryland, the redshirt freshman guard was in uniform and available. Moretti missed Illinois' previous 10 games dealing with a foot injury he suffered Nov. 19.

Moretti will give Illinois another ball handler, but Underwood said Sunday was not the "right game" to work Moretti back onto the court.

"There's a lot of factors that go into that," Underwood said. "Starting to see some consistent play in practice. There's a conditioning point of that in practice. There's a matchup part of that from the game side of things. There's a tempo piece to that. I've got a lot of belief in Nico. There's no doubt Nico and Dravyn, those guys' time is coming, and they're going to help us."

SCOTT RICHEY