Next up for the Maryland women's basketball team - a trip to Raleigh and a match up against the eighteenth ranked NC State Wolfpack. In some ways, NC State reminds me of Pitt on the men's side. The Wolfpack started the season outside the top twenty-five but they've won a lot of games (18-3 overall 5-2 in the ACC) and beaten some good teams along the way. So let's get our look at the Wolfpack started.
First in their non-conference schedule, State has only one rather inexplicable loss that came in a holiday tournament in Florida over Thanksgiving to Wright State. Following that loss they ran off eight consecutive wins including an 89-79 upset of then twelfth ranked LSU in Raleigh where the Pack is undefeated this season. Their streak ended with a nine point loss at North Carolina and they lost by the same margin to Miami in Coral Gables. In addition to the Tar Heels, the other opponents they have in common with the Terps are a six point home win against Syracuse and road wins at Wake Forest (by eight) and Georgia Tech (by seven). Two weeks ago, the Wolfpack handed Florida State a lopsided twenty-three point drubbing in Reynolds Coliseum.
Offensively, State averages 78.5 points per game - good for sixth best in the ACC - while connecting on 47% of their shots from the field. They are also among the better three point shooting teams in the ACC making just under 37% of their shots from beyond the arc. And they shoot a lot from long range - jacking up over twenty-two bombs per game. By comparison, the Terps average 14.5 attempts from that distance. Like Maryland, they share the ball well averaging over nineteen assists.
Opponents shoot just over forty percent against the Pack and they make about thirty-two percent from three. These numbers place NC State near the bottom of the ACC on the defensive side of the court.
On the glass, State is plus six for the season while the Terrapins, despite their recent woes, remain at plus twelve. They average just over thirteen offensive rebounds per game compared to Maryland's fifteen.
Individually, NC State has three players averaging in double figures led by senior center Markeisha Gatling's 16.9. She's joined by another pair of seniors 6'2" forward Cody Burke at 15.2 and 5'4"guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman who adds just over ten per game. Goodwin-Coleman is the player most likely to shoot the long ball putting up over seven threes per game. And she will shoot from well beyond the three point line. Redshirt junior guard Len'Nique Brown, a transfer from USC leads the Pack in assists with over four per game. State doesn't have a dominant rebounder led by Gatling's 6.9 and followed closely by Burke at 6.1.
So what are the keys to Maryland getting back on the winning track and handing the Wolfpack their first home loss of the season? It begins on the defensive end. Though State has shown themselves capable of grinding out and winning some low scoring games they are 11-1 when scoring eighty or more. And I think this phase of the will start with the Terps containing NC State's small but quick guards. In recent games, opposing guards have beaten Maryland's guards off the bounce and though the defensive rotation has stopped the penetration, it's often led to easy, open looks from deep or left an undersized player in a difficult rebounding situation. State shoots too often and too accurately from behind the arc for Maryland to give them too many open looks.
Second, hit the boards hard. The Terps simply need to regain their rebounding mojo as this has long been a key component of their success. NC State is an average rebounding team and Maryland needs to let them know, in no uncertain terms, who is better in this phase of the game.
Offensively, the Terps should have a size advantage on the Pack's guards and they should look for ways to exploit that. They will also help themselves if they can get Goodling in foul trouble. Though Goddling's backup, Lakeesa Daniel, is also a senior, the drop off in offensive efficiency is considerable.
As was the case with Virginia, Thursday will be Maryland's last regular season game as a member of the ACC against NC State. Overall, they will leave with a losing record against the Wolfpack but they have won three in a row and eight of the last nine meetings. The Terps will need forty minutes of intensity, focus and execution to come away with a much needed win.
Game-time: 7:00 p.m. Thursday the 30th
How to watch: ESPN3 has the exclusive coverage so those of you in the ACC footprint (even you, Indiana) should be able to stream this one.
How to listen: The game will be broadcast on the Maryland Sports Radio Network. Those of you in and around College Park can tune to AM 570 and in the Baltimore area you can hear the game on 1300 AM.