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No. 3 Maryland women’s basketball vs. Mount St. Mary’s preview

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The Terps will have their next three games in College Park.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 3 Maryland women’s basketball returns to the Xfinity Center to host the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers on Tuesday night.

The Terps boast a 3-0 record through their first three games and breezed through their first road test at James Madison this past Sunday, winning 81-45. Maryland unleashed a 29-10 first-quarter performance, grabbing control of the game and never relinquishing it from there. Graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby exploded on the offensive end, picking up 19 points and securing four offensive rebounds. Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese also notched her second double-double in three games, recording 12 points and 14 boards.

“JMU’s just, they’re a great team,” head coach Brenda Frese said postgame Sunday. “They’re really well coached. They’re a very talented team. They’re gonna have a lot of success in their league, so excited about a really tough road win that we made it look easy.”

Concern rose early in the third quarter though, as Maryland’s All-American junior guard Ashley Owusu was fouled crossing half court. Owusu went down hard and immediately tended to her ankle. Instead of going to the locker room, Owusu received treatment at the end of the bench and was icing her ankle for the rest of the game. Frese said postgame that she rolled her ankle and it was not worth putting her back in with the game taken care of, but it is a situation worth monitoring in the coming days.

Tuesday’s contest against Mount St. Mary’s is set to tipoff at 7 p.m. and will air on BTN Plus. It is the first of a three-game homestand for the Terps.

Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (1-1)

2020-21 record: 17-7 (14-4 Northeast Conference)

Head coach Antoine White enters the biggest test of his head coaching career thus far. After five seasons on the Mountaineer staff, spending the last two as an associate head coach, White was promoted to the head coach position this past March. White is only five years removed from his college playing days at Division III Southern Vermont College, where he is the all-time assists leader.

The Mount sits at .500 through two games. In its season-opener exactly a week prior to its matchup with Maryland, Mount St. Mary’s hung around with Seton Hall before falling to the Pirates, 81-68. The Mountaineers returned home Saturday, and demoralized Division III Valley Forge, winning 102-15. The Mountaineers allowed only 3.75 points per quarter, and the score was 29-2 after the first 10 minutes. Mount St. Mary’s was voted the unanimous favorite in the conference’s preseason poll.

In the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, Maryland pummeled the Mountaineers, 98-45.

Players to know

Kendall Bresee, graduate student guard/forward, 5-foot-10, No. 3 — Bresee had a mammoth 2020-21 season, winning NEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors. Bresee averaged 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Bresee had a rough 1-for-8 shooting outing against Valley Forge but was sensational against Seton Hall with 22 points.

Michaela Harrison, senior guard, 5-foot-7, No. 10 — Harrison averaged 12.4 points per game and was tied for the team-lead in three-pointers en route to earning All-NEC Second Team honors last season. A member of the 1,000 point club, Harrison started the season on a high note. Like Bresee, she did not do much against The Mount’s Division III opponent, but she performed under the bright lights with 20 points against Seton Hall.

Aryna Taylor, redshirt junior guard, 5-foot-10, No. 13 — Along with Harrison, Taylor was tied for the team-lead with 50 three-pointers in 2020-21. Taylor averaged 11.7 points per game, earning All-NEC Third Team accolades. Taylor erupted for 25 points against Valley Forge, a showing which featured a perfect 9-for-9 shooting mark.

Strength

Scoring. Plain and simple, the Mountaineers can score the basketball. Mount St. Mary’s returns four starters from a team that led the NEC at scoring at 71.7 points per game. The Mountaineers also held a +10 average scoring margin, which not only led the NEC, but it made them one of two teams in the conference with a positive margin. Mount St. Mary’s hung a respectable number on Seton Hall, but it will be tough to do the same against a Terps’ defense that has tightened up lately.

Weakness

Playing against Maryland. Dating back to the first matchup between the two teams in 1976, the Terps hold a perfect 9-0 record against The Mount. In those nine games, the Terps hold an average margin of victory of 41.4 points per game. Though the two Maryland schools are only separated by about 65 miles, the talent difference between them is, and always will be, massive.

Three things to watch

1. What’s the deal with the Maryland backcourt? It likely will not matter against Mount St. Mary’s, but Maryland’s guard depth is depleted. The Terps were already at a nine-player rotation against James Madison, with junior guard Diamond Miller considered day-to-day and graduate student guard Channise Lewis working her way back from last year’s season-ending knee injury.

As of last Thursday, Miller has been participating in individual workouts in practice, and the team wants to work her way back to 100% with caution. If Owusu is to miss extended time with an ankle injury, Maryland could be in trouble. Sunday’s matchup with No. 7 Baylor is quickly approaching.

2. Can Katie Benzan snap out of a one-game rut? The graduate student guard was the nation’s leading three-point shooter one year ago, making exactly half of her threes. Benzan continued that theme in Maryland’s first two home games, making five of her first nine three-pointers. Against James Madison, however, Benzan only shot 1-for-7 from three-point land. With the confidence and shooting touch that Benzan possesses, there should be zero worry about her prospects.

“They will, and no,” Frese said postgame Sunday of whether she was worried about the threes not falling. “Because I really think we’re just doing a really nice job playing inside-out and I love the positive assist-to-turnover ratio.”

3. Can Maryland’s defense continue to string together dominant performances? The Terps have allowed less than 60 points per game in three contests, including a 45-point gem against a James Madison team that dropped 84 points on Virginia in its opening game. Frese noted postgame that Maryland implemented a zone defense for extended periods of time to try and throw off the Dukes after they had six days to prepare. Frese also added that junior guard/forward Faith Masonius is Maryland’s best zone defender, so it will be interesting to see if the Terps continue to test out more defensive looks against the Mountaineers.

“I thought defensively was one of our best communication games,” Frese added postgame Sunday. “I thought we really found a really good rhythm, it was working, so didn’t make sense to change [from a zone].”