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No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball vs. Villanova preview

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The Wildcats get a crack at the Terps in the second game of the season for both teams.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball wraps up its two-game season-opening homestand against the Villanova Wildcats on Friday night in College Park.

“This team will be fully prepared,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “I mean, they had a really good practice and [our] next opponent is gonna prepare us to make us better.”

In its first game of the season Tuesday, the Maryland offense picked up right where it left off. Led by sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese’s double-double — she had 21 points and 14 rebounds — the Terps nearly hit the century mark in a 97-67 defeat of Longwood. It was an overall solid shooting performance for Maryland, sinking 47.4% of its threes. The Terps picked up their defensive intensity in the third quarter, outscoring Longwood 29-13 in the frame and taking control of the game.

Life seems to continue for the Terps without star junior guard Diamond Miller, who head coach Brenda Frese considers day-to-day with a knee injury. There has been no set timetable of when Miller will return. Perhaps a silver lining to Miller’s early non-conference absence is the availability of minutes for Frese’s bench. Taking advantage of those early has been freshman guard Shyanne Sellers. Sellers had a fantastic debut against Longwood, recording 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting while picking up three steals on the other end.

“Diamond’s done a great job on the sidelines,” graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby said. “I think she’s getting ready and working hard to get back out there for us.”

The Terps and the Wildcats are set to do battle at 7 p.m. Friday, and the matchup will air on BTN Plus.

Villanova Wildcats (0-1)

2020-21 record: 17-7 (9-5 Big East)

Head coach Denise Dillon is in her second season at the helm of the Villanova women’s basketball program. Dillon is only the fifth head coach in program history, taking over in March 2020 for Harry Perretta after his storied 42 years leading the Wildcats. Dillon’s head coaching career started not too far from Villanova, spending 17 years at Drexel. She led the Dragons to a 329-204 record in that span, taking them to the national postseason in her last four seasons. Dillon played for the school from 1993-96.

The Wildcats return three starters from a team that finished 10 games over .500 and earned the No. 5-seed in the 2021 Big East Tournament. Villanova eventually bowed out to powerhouse Connecticut in the conference tournament’s semifinals but did enough to earn a bid to the WNIT. The Wildcats beat Massachusetts and Florida before losing by seven to Delaware in the WNIT Quarterfinals. Villanova was slated to finish fifth in the Big East Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

Villanova opened its season Wednesday at home with a 59-42 loss against Ivy League-favorite Princeton.

Players to know

Maddy Siegrist, junior forward, 6-foot-1, No. 20 — Siegrist is coming off a sensational 2020-21 season where she earned All-Big East First Team and USBWA Honorable Mention All-American honors. The Poughkeepsie, New York product was one of the best scorers in college basketball, averaging 22.8 points per game, which ranked first in the Big East and 11th in Division I. Siegrist also dominated the glass, leading the team with 9.8 rebounds per game.

“Obviously, [Siegrist is] a great player,” Frese said. “I mean, really, really talented and had an off night [against Princeton], so I expect that she’ll come ready to play, as well as her team.”

Brianna Herlihy, graduate student forward, 6-foot, No. 14 — While Siegrist was Villanova’s best player a season ago, Herlihy was right there behind here. She was second on the team with 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and was named to the All-Big East Second Team. Herlihy also proved to be a potent rim protector, averaging over 1.2 blocks per game.

Lior Garzon, sophomore forward, 6-foot-1, No. 12 — Garzon only started one game last season, but she is Villanova’s third-leading returning scorer. The Israeli had a steady freshman campaign from three-point land, shooting 34.5%. Garzon started against Princeton and had a tough game from the field, going 2-for-9 in 31 minutes.

Strength

Star power. Villanova has a difficult task ahead of it with a road game against a national power, but they do have a player who can keep it in the game. Siegrist comes into this season as one of the 20 players on the Katrina McClain Award Watch List for the nation’s best power forward, an award she was a finalist for last year. She was one of three players in Big East history to lead the conference in both scoring and rebounding. If the Wildcats can stick around with Maryland, it will be because of Siegrist’s ability to score the basketball.

Weakness

Three-point shooting. The Wildcats were in the upper half of the Big East in most categories last season except for three-point shooting. Villanova was seventh in the Big East with a 31% clip from distance, but a deeper dive shows that the Wildcats lost three players that made over one-third of their threes. Villanova struggled from behind the arc against Princeton, going 22.7% (5-for-22) from deep.

Three things to know

1. Can Shyanne Sellers find consistency early in her freshman season? Going into the season, Maryland’s top-seven rotation players were solidified. That eighth spot was seemingly up for grabs, but Sellers has seemed to cement her name in Frese’s rotation already. The former four-star recruit has great size at 6-foot-2 and has shown an ability to play multiple positions. She also has shown a knack for the ball on defense, picking up three steals in game one. If she can prove to be a contributor in the early portion of Maryland’s non-conference schedule, it will be a big boost to its depth once Miller returns.

“I was excited,” Sellers said. “My first few shots were rolling in and out, so that was kind of frustrating, but we held it together and I think my team played as a unit, so that helped us and helped me get a hold.”

2. Will Maryland get off to a faster start defensively? The Terps offense exploded against Longwood, but the defensive performance, especially on the perimeter, in the first quarter was not exactly stellar. The score was even at 21 apiece after the first 10 minutes because of an unrelenting Lancers’ shooting performance. Longwood shot 57.1% from the field and 60% from three-point range in the first quarter. The Terps improved defensively throughout their first game, but a more complete defensive performance against Villanova could be on the radar.

“I think now that we’ve got a game under our belt, just come out ready to go,” Frese said. “I think when you look at most of the teams across the board, it took a quarter for everybody to kind of get warmed up and be able to play.”

3. Look for Chloe Bibby to play a much better game offensively. Bibby was held in check offensively against Longwood, only scoring two points and going 0-for-7 from the field. She missed a couple of layups and missed some jumpers she would usually make. Bibby did not necessarily play a bad game, she picked up one block and was a +19 in 28 minutes, but everyone knows she brings more to the table offensively. Bibby should be able to get in more of a groove against Villanova.

“Make some layups that’d be nice,” a laughing Bibby said on what can be improved on against Villanova. “But no, I mean, I’m so happy we won by 30. Great team effort…it’ll come within the team. Just play the Maryland way and I know it’ll get done, so I’m not too worried about it.”