CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — When leading scorer and rebounder Rayvonte Rice broke his left hand in practice this week, Illinois wondered from where those points, boards and leadership would come.
On Wednesday night, at least, the answer was sophomore Malcolm Hill.
Hill scored a career-high 28 points to lead the Illini (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) to a 64-57 upset over No. 11 Maryland.
Illini coach John Groce said the win, unexpected after the loss of Rice and two defeats to open the Big Ten season, was reason to celebrate.
Hill said any celebration would be short.
“To be honest, I’m probably going to shove it away after this interview,” he said. “We’ve got a big game at Nebraska. … This is a good win, but I’m not going to get too high off of it.”
Maryland, off to one of its best starts ever and shooting for a 3-0 beginning in its first Big Ten season, led through much of the first half but never clicked, coach Mark Turgeon said. And the Terrapins had no answer for Hill.
“We had no one to match up with Hill,” Turgeon said. “I challenged my guys at halftime to guard him, and obviously that didn’t happen.”
Hill added seven rebounds. Nnanna Egwu led Illinois with nine.
Melo Trimble led the cold-shooting Terrapins (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten) with 17 points. Maryland shot just 36.5 percent from the field.
Maryland’s 28-26 halftime lead evaporated with a cold second-half start, in contrast to Hill, who opened the half on fire. He led Illinois on a 20-3 run that opened a 15-point lead.
First he led a 7-0 run with five points on back-to-back buckets to put the Illini up 33-28.
Then he hit on another pair of jump shots, the second a 3-pointer that gave Illinois a 39-31 lead with 13:56 to play. With the crowd roaring, Maryland took a time out.
But it only slowed Hill for the moment.
He came out of the break and hit another 3, putting Illinois up 41-31.
By the time the Terrapins slowed the flood, the Illini were up 46-31 with 12:07 to play.
Maryland: Maryland came into the game making a living at the free throw line. The Terrapins averaged 25.7 free throw attempts a game, hitting 19.3 of them (74.9 percent). Against the Illini, Maryland went to the line just 18 times, hitting 10.
Illinois: The win ends a 0-3 run for the Illini against Top 25 teams. Illinois had lost to Miami (ranked 15th at the time), Villanova (which was No. 7) and to Ohio State (ranked 20th). All of those losses were on the road. …
Illinois coach John Groce almost certainly hoped some of the points missing without Rice would come from Ahmad Starks, a transfer from Oregon State who owns the Beavers’ all-time 3-point field goal record with 185 and averaged 10.7 points a game there over three seasons. But Starks has slumped in his first season at Illinois, scoring just 7.3 points a game and hitting just 19 3-pointers through the first 15 games.
Midway through the first half Wednesday, he passed up an open look from 3-point range, and Groce let him hear about it.
“Shoot it! Shoot the ball, big boy!” Groce yelled.
Starks finished 1 for 6 with 5 points.
Maryland’s seniors were the coldest part of the roster, shooting a combined 3 for 21 Wednesday. Evan Smotrycz was 0 for 6 and Richaud Pack was 1 for 7. Turgeon said they were trying too hard to make something happen on a night when the team struggled.
“I love my seniors, but they just didn’t have a good night,” Turgeon said. “They were pressing.”
Maryland will finish its two-game road swing Saturday at Purdue.
Illinois heads back on the road to face Nebraska Sunday. The Illini open Big Ten play with four out of five away from home.
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