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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Ryan McFadden

No. 22 Maryland holds off No. 16 Illinois, 71-66, behind Jahmir Young to stay unbeaten

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In the second half of Friday night’s game against No. 16 Illinois, No. 22 Maryland found itself in uncharted waters.

After leading nearly the entire game, the Terps allowed a 3-pointer by Fighting Illini freshman guard Skyy Clark that tied the score at 62 with 3:39 to play. It continued a 17-5 run for Illinois, putting Maryland’s resiliency to the test in front of its largest home crowd of the season.

The Terps didn’t falter. Transfer guard Jahmir Young hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining and Maryland held off Illinois, 71-66, to remain unbeaten and give first-year coach Kevin Willard the victory in his first Big Ten game.

Young’s clutch shot capped a breathtaking performance, as he scored 24 points on 9-for-20 shooting. Senior Hakim Hart finished with 17 points and forward Donta Scott added 12 as Maryland (8-0, 1-0 Big Ten) shot 44.4% from the field and went 9 for 23 from the 3-point line.

Maryland was able to withstand a strong performance from Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr., who finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. Forward Coleman Hawkins tallied 14 points and seven rebounds, helping lead the Fighting Illini’s second-half surge.

The day before Maryland’s Big Ten opener, Willard admitted that he was nervous.

In the Terps’ first four home games of the season, they played in front of crowds that resembled high school basketball games. Xfinity Center was practically empty 75 minutes before tip-off, and when the game started, the wall was barely filled.

Friday night was different. Maryland played inspiring basketball during its 7-0 start, and in return, fans flocked to Xfinity Center, filling every inch of the arena. The atmosphere was the perfect reward for the Terps’ early success, but Willard wasn’t sure how the team would react in front of a big crowd.

“We’ve played really hard but in an empty building,” Willard said. “I am a little tempered just to make sure that we don’t gas ourselves out in front of a great crowd.”

Willard had praised Maryland’s unbothered attitude, as the Terps never allowed the early-season success faze them. Against Illinois, the Terps’ even-keeled approach was on display in the opening minutes.

Young kicked things off with a 3-pointer, but Hawkins quickly responded with an outside shot of his own. The teams began trading baskets before Hawkins and Shannon each converted layups to give Illinois (6-2, 0-1) a 14-11 advantage.

Suddenly, the energy inside Xfinity Center shifted. Hart scored eight straight points before Young’s second 3-pointer of the night gave Maryland an eight-point advantage. The Terps embarked on a commanding 17-2 run to take a 28-16 lead with 8:09 to go in the first half.

However, Illinois wasn’t going to crumble like the other teams Maryland faced. The Fighting Illini went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to three. Still, the Terps were unfazed, as Hart knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to put Maryland up 34-25 with less than five minutes left in the half.

Maryland received a much-deserved standing ovation after taking a 41-34 lead into halftime.

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