COLLEGE PARK, Maryland (Ticker) -- Juan Dixon won his battle of marquee players with Frank Williams and Maryland earned some bragging rights for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Dixon scored 25 points and emerging Chris Wilcox added 19 off the bench as the fourth-ranked Terrapins posted a 76-63 victory over No. 2 Illinois in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The victory extended Maryland's non-conference home winning streak to 80 games in their final season at Cole Field House. The Terrapins' last loss here was to Coppin State on December 12, 1989.
Dixon was the catalyst, scoring 13 points in the first half as Maryland (4-1) used a 12-0 run to take a 22-17 lead with 8:55 left. Dixon started the run with a layup and Byron Mouton capped it with a long 3-pointer.
"I thought at 17-10, we had to up it a little bit," Terrapins coach Gary Williams said. "We just moved it up 10 percent. We knew we had to play a team like Illinois hard for 40 minutes." Frank Williams, the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, made just 3-of-16 shots and was limited to 10 points. Steve Blake was the primary defender on Williams and repeatedly harassed his point guard counterpart into difficult shots.
"I just wanted to go out and play our game, keep him in front of me," Blake said, "try not to foul him because he gets a lot of points from the foul line." The Terrapins had a 41-29 halftime lead and roared out of the locker room with a 10-2 spurt for their largest advantage at 51-31 with just over 17 minutes remaining. Dixon scored seven points in the run, including a pair of fast-break layups.
Illinois (5-1) climbed within eight points on two occasions, the final time on a basket by Cory Bradford with just under three minutes left that cut the deficit to 66-58. But Wilcox countered with five straight points for a 71-58 bulge with 1:41 to go. He scored 10 points in the second half.
"They have the frontcourt depth, their guard play, but Wilcox is the guy," Illinois coach Bill Self said. "I haven't seen a sixth man like that. I think he's great." Forced into action after starting center Lonny Baxter got in foul trouble, Wilcox made 8-of-13 shots and grabbed six rebounds. The 6-10 sophomore, who Self described as Maryland's best pro prospect, was one of four Terps in double figures.
"When Chris comes in, it gives our team a different look," Gary Williams said. "He's become more comfortable in the half-court offense. He knows where to go in the offense." Frank Williams was not the only Illinois player to struggle from the perimeter as Bradford made just 4-of-14 shots for eight points. Blandon Ferguson led Illinois with 11 off the bench.
"(I'd) rather this happen early than late," Bradford said. "We were better than them last year at this time. This time, they were better than us at this time." Bradford was referring to Illinois' 90-80 semifinal victory last November 21 at the Maui Invitational. The Illini held a commanding 55-37 advantage on the glass in that contest but managed just a slim 42-38 edge on Tuesday.
"That was what we had to do," Gary Williams said. "They won that game in the second half at Maui because we couldn't get a rebound." "We're a good rebounding team," Dixon added. "We have big fellows, too. (The rebounding) helped our transition game." Drew Nicholas finished with 12 points and Blake added 10, nine assists and a career-high four blocks as Maryland improved to 3-2 all-time against the Illini.
"If that game's at Illinois, that probably doesn't happen, (winning) by 13," Gary Williams said. "It is good for November. Both teams should be better in January during conference play." .