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Women's basketball preview: Maryland travels to Virginia

We take a look at what's in store for Maryland as their farewell tour continues with the Terps making their last trip to Charlottesville as a member of the ACC.

Judy Tarter

Is this a trap game for Maryland? After a three game home stand that ended with a closely contested, always physical win over Georgia Tech, the sixth ranked Maryland women's basketball team travels to Charlottesville for their final regular season game as a member of the ACC against the Virginia Cavaliers.

Virginia enters the game with a 9-9 overall record and is 2-3 in ACC play. The Terps come in at 16-1 and are undefeated in league play with a 4-0 record. Maryland has won five straight over the Cavs including a 24 point win in College Park and a 29 point win at Virginia last year. The Terrapins are the fourth consecutive ranked team Virginia will face. Virginia is 1-2 in the first three getting a home win in an 85-68 shellacking of then 17th ranked Florida State on Sunday after dropping games at Duke and against Notre Dame. The Terps have a crucial home game on Monday against the second ranked and undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish. So, potential trap game?

Now it's time to take a look at some of the challenges the Terps will face at JPJ Arena. On the offensive end, the Cavaliers are not a high scoring team averaging just over 68 points per game sitting them twelfth in the ACC. However, their scoring is very balanced. They have three players averaging in double figures led by Faith Randolph at nearly 13 points per game. Randolph, a sophomore guard from Good Counsel generally comes off the bench for the Cavs. Among the starters, Altaira Franklin, a senior from Riverdale Baptist, leads with 12.5 points followed closely by Sarah Imovbioh at 11.1. Another Maryland high schooler, Seneca Valley's Kelsey Wolf adds 9.3 per game. On the defensive side, Virginia forces nearly 21 turnovers (including over 10 steals) per game so Maryland will have to look to protect the ball. Despite their three home losses, Virginia can be a tough out at home. In addition to their rather comfortable win over Florida State, the Cavaliers rallied from a thirteen point second half deficit against Notre Dame to close to within two with 3:49 to play before the Irish pulled away late to win by seven.

Virginia is a small team frequently playing a four guard lineup with Imovbioh at 6'2" the tallest player they have on the floor. The junior from Nigeria connects on 51% of her shots and pulls down a team leading 8.3 rebounds per game. Speaking of rebounding, this is one place Maryland should dominate. After being out rebounded by Georgia Tech, the Terps should be looking to control the boards against a team that has a minus three rebounds per game differential. The Terps should also be looking to clamp down defensively as the Cavaliers are last in the league with a .382 field goal percentage while Maryland's .349 field goal percentage defense places them third in the ACC. The Terps also yield a league low 58.5 points per game.

There is an individual story line to watch as well. Alyssa Thomas needs to score just seven points to become the fourth player in Maryland women's basketball history to score 2,000 points in her career. Crystal Langhorne (2,245), Marissa Coleman (2,205), and Kristi Toliver (2,078) are the others. In addition, Thomas recorded three assists Sunday against Georgia Tech giving her 402 for her career. I have found only four players in NCAA women's basketball history who have scored at least 2,000 points, grabbed 1,000 or more rebounds, and handed out a minimum of 400 assists for their career. (Cheryl Miller, Nicole Powell, Armintie Price, and most recently Maya Moore.) Even if my research has missed a player or two, this achievement clearly puts Thomas in very elite company. {After initial publication, I realized I should be  fired from this beat. Maryland's own Marissa Coleman is also on this list. - Apologies.}

As for the game, though the Cavaliers are clearly capable of playing well in spurts, Maryland is a bigger, deeper, and more talented team than Virginia. If the Terps come focused and ready to play, they should leave Charlottesville with their unblemished ACC record in tact and a seemingly short bus ride home.

Game-time: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

How to watch: The game will air locally on Comcast SportsNet and on regional sports networks elsewhere. It is also available on ESPN3 but blacked out throughout the ACC footprint. (This includes you, Indiana.)