Maryland is one win away from the best start in school history, but coach Mark Turgeon is more focused with his team’s continued improvement than its place in the record books.
The No. 11 Terrapins look to hand short-handed Illinois its first home loss and send it to its worst Big Ten start in seven seasons Wednesday night.
Maryland (14-1, 2-0) has never won 15 of its first 16, but is off to its best start since 1996-97.
"Our confidence is at an all-time high right now," forward Damonte Dodd said. "I don’t think people expected us to be doing as well as we are, so we’ve just got to continue to build on this and keep getting better."
Turgeon, who guided Texas A&M to starts of 15-1 in 2007-08 and 16-1 in 2010-11, continues to downplay his team’s early success.
"We talk about getting better," he said. "We talk about the good things we have done, and we’re positive and confident because of it.
"What matters to me is how we’re playing, and I don’t think we’re playing as well as we can play. We’ve got to play a more complete game and be a little bit more consistent."
Turgeon has reason for concern after the Terps shot a combined 37.4 percent while winning 68-66 in double-overtime at Michigan State last Tuesday and 70-58 over Minnesota on Saturday. They shot 47.6 percent during non-conference play.
Leading scorer Melo Trimble (16.2 points per game) has shot 25.0 percent, including 2 of 16 from 3-point range, in the last two.
Maryland, however, held the Spartans and Gophers to 33.1 percent shooting – including 8 of 44 from beyond the arc. The Terps rank among the nation’s best in defensive effective field-goal percentage (42.3).
"We have a lot of momentum so far, but we have to continue to win and continue to execute and defend the way we know how we can," swingman Dez Wells said.
The Terps didn’t allow more than 66 points and yielded 37.3 percent shooting to win its two true road contests at Oklahoma State and Michigan State, but Illinois (10-5, 0-2) has averaged 89.4 points on 50.8 percent shooting while going 7-0 at home.
The Illini, however, will be at a major disadvantage after Rayvonte Rice fractured his left hand in practice. The senior, who could be sidelined for as long as six weeks if surgery is necessary, averages teams highs of 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds and is second in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting at 48.3 percent.
Sophomore guard Malcolm Hill is the only other Illinois player to average in double figures at 13.1 points.
Illinois returns home after blowing a 13-point lead in a 73-65 overtime loss at Michigan last Tuesday, then committing 20 turnovers in Saturday’s 77-61 defeat at then-No. 20 Ohio State.
The Illini haven’t dropped their first three league games since going 0-4 in 2007-08.
"I thought during the first two games of Big Ten play we played really, really well for stretches or we’ve been awful," Illinois coach John Groce said. "You can’t be that inconsistent in this league, or that’s going to be a recipe that’s not going to work."
The Illini allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 60.0 percent from the field and go 7 of 16 from 3-point range.
Illinois, which won the last two versus Maryland during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, has dropped four straight home games against Top 25 teams.