The Maryland basketball team entered Tuesday’s game without the services of big men Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd.
Despite two of their biggest assets missing on the interior, the Terrapins’ frontcourt excelled and wasn’t an issue in the slightest.
Due to the absence of Cekovsky and Dodd, coach Mark Turgeon was forced to start Ivan Bender and Justin Jackson down low. Jackson has been starting the bulk of Maryland’s nonconference games, but Bender usually doesn’t play a ton of minutes.
Jackson was among the most impressive members of Maryland’s frontcourt against Illinois.
The freshman forward scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds in an 84-59 Maryland win. Jackson grabbed two of his boards on the offensive glass and played with a ton of energy.
For example, guard Kevin Huerter took a wide-open three early in the second half. Even before Huerter’s shot hit the rim, Jackson was making his way towards the basket just in case Huerter missed the shot.
As soon as Huerter’s shot clanked off the rim, Jackson was in perfect position. Jackson was able to slide right under the basket for the offensive rebound and had an easy reverse putback.
Jackson’s offensive board and putback helped extend Maryland’s lead to 43-25 with 18:31 remaining in the game.
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Maryland got some production from their bench, which may be surprising considering how short it was.
Graduate transfer L.G. Gill played a season-high 23 minutes and provided a spark for the Terps. Gill ended up scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds on the night.
Gill was the only real big that was available off of the bench due to Cekovsky and Dodd not suiting up.
The former Duquesne star was a force on the glass and Maryland needed every single one of his seven rebounds. Gill grabbed four of his boards in the first half and was a real force on the defensive end.
Gill even did his best LeBron James impersonation early on.
After Anthony Cowan’s pass was intercepted in the lane by Tracy Abrams, Abrams pushed the ball up the floor. Abrams got to the rim and attempted to go right by Jaylen Brantley.
Instead of getting the layup, Gill swatted Abrams’ shot right off the backboard. Gill’s shot was reminiscent of James’ block of Andre Iguodala in Game 7 of last June’s NBA Finals.
Gill’s block allowed the Terps to secure the rebound and head back down the floor.
On the offensive end, Gill always possesses the ability to shoot, but it was his play on the interior that aided Maryland. On one of his field goals, he benefitted from a beautiful pass from Cowan, which resulted in an easy layup.
With 11:50 left in the second half, Gill set a ball screen for Cowan. Cowan drove to the right of the screen, which freed up a cutting Gill.
Cowan lobbed the pass to Gill, which was met and fouled by Jalen Coleman-Lands around the rim. However, Gill played through the contact and made the jumper and was fouled on the play.
Gill’s tough conversion gave the Terps a 58-33 lead and was part of a run that helped put the game out of reach.
Maryland really did an excellent job on the interior on both ends of the floor. It could’ve been ugly for Turgeon’s group without two of their more productive big men.
Instead, guys like Gill and Jackson shined and the game was never in doubt. If they continue to get anything close to this when Cekovsky and Dodd return, this is going to be a very dangerous frontcourt.