COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Kevin Willard has already brought the buzz back at Maryland.
Jahmir Young scored 24 points, including a crucial 3-pointer with 14.3 seconds remaining that helped the No. 22 Terrapins stay undefeated with a 71-66 victory over No. 16 Illinois on Friday night.
As impressive as the win was, the atmosphere may have been even more significant. Former Maryland coach Gary Williams and tennis star Francis Tiafoe were part of a raucous crowd that seemed thrilled about Willard’s work in his first season as coach.
“I want to get this program back to a championship level,” Willard said. “To get it back to a championship level, you need a building like that.”
The announced attendance was 16,380. For Maryland’s previous home game against Coppin State, it was under 11,000.
“This is what it should be about in the Big Ten,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “You got nine more of those. I’m a Kevin fan, he does a great job, and I hope they do it up for the other nine games they’ve got in league play.”
The Terrapins (8-0, 1-0 Big Ten) led 67-66 and had the ball, with about a 12-second difference between the shot clock and the game clock. That’s when Young connected from near the top of the key to push the lead to four.
“I know if we hit a 3 it would be a two-possession game,” Young said. “I practice that shot, coach believes in me so, just knock it down.”
Coleman Hawkins missed a 3 at the other end for Illinois (6-2, 0-1), and the Terps closed out the game from there.
Willard became the first coach in Big Ten history to win each of the first seven games of his tenure by at least 15 points. Victory No. 8 wasn’t nearly that easy, but the Terps never trailed in the second half, even after a spirited Illinois comeback.
The Illini went on a 9-0 run after Maryland led 55-45, and the game was tied a couple times down the stretch, but the Terps came away with the win.
Willard was already the first coach in program history to have Maryland nationally ranked in his first season. This game was the start of a tougher stretch in the schedule. The Terps will face Wisconsin, Tennessee and UCLA in the next couple weeks.
Terrence Shannon Jr. led Illinois with 19 points.
Illinois: The defending Big Ten champ played tough on the road, but the Illini couldn’t snap their losing streak at Maryland, which is now at five games. Xfinity Center is the only Big Ten venue where Illinois hasn’t won during Underwood’s tenure.
In 2019 at Maryland, Anthony Cowan Jr. made the winning free throw for the Terps with 2.1 seconds remaining after being fouled in a scrum some 75 feet from the basket.
That game evidently stuck with Underwood.
“You don’t want to make me go into the one three years ago,” Underwood said. “There’s a long story about that one now.”
Maryland: The Terps have looked like one of the Big Ten’s better teams to start the season, but this was their first major test. They passed.
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Maryland hasn’t trailed by more than three points at any point this season, and that was also Illinois’ biggest lead Friday. The Illini led for 4:44 in the game. Through their first seven games, the Terps had trailed for a total of only 3:23.
Illinois did outscore Maryland 32-30 in the second half, the first time all season the Terps were outscored in any half. They were one of three teams in the country, along with No. 1 Houston and No. 8 Connecticut, who had won every half they’d played.
Illinois: The Illini face another tough matchup away from home when they meet No. 2 Texas in New York on Tuesday night.
Maryland: The Terps play at Wisconsin on Tuesday night.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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