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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Georgian Court preview

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Thursday marks the Terps’ last tune-up before the regular season.

Photo Courtesy: UMTerps

No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball returns to Xfinity Center floor for one last exhibition game against the Division II Georgian Court Lions.

“The defensive side of the ball,” head coach Brenda Frese said of what she is specifically looking out for Thursday. “I mean, plain and simple, that’s got to be a big piece.”

The Terps are coming off a dominant 120-67 victory against Fairmont State, another Division II opponent, on Oct. 29. Graduate student guard Katie Benzan was lights out for Maryland, leading the way with 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese was also excellent, proving to be too much in the paint and notching a double-double with 21 points and 11 assists.

Head coach Brenda Frese gets a final chance to work out her rotation against a real opponent before the regular season starts on Nov. 9 against Longwood. Highly-touted freshman guard Shyanne Sellers and sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova combined for 31 points in the exhibition against Fairmont State, making their cases for major playing time off the bench. Depending on when star junior guard Diamond Miller returns — she did not play in the opening exhibition — those minutes will undoubtedly be harder to come by in the future.

“These exhibition games are really meant for us to just get our kinks out and really perform what we’ve been working on in practice,” junior guard/forward Faith Masonius said. “So just pulling all those, just little things together like stops on defense, like perfecting our plays, perfecting our calls, little things like that.”

Thursday’s game is set for a 6 p.m. tipoff and will air on BTN Plus. Now, let’s take a look at Maryland’s opponent.

Georgian Court Lions

2020-21 record: 9-2 (7-0 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference)

Head coach Jasmina (Jazz) Perazic makes her return to College Park in her seventh season leading the Georgian Court program. In 1980, Perazic began what would become a storied playing career for Maryland women’s basketball. She played for the Terps for four years, leading the program to three straight ACC titles and the 1982 Final Four. The 1983 All-American has her number hanging in the Xfinity Center rafters. Perazic was the CACC Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year in 2020-21.

“Jazz is someone we’ve stayed in great contact with throughout the years,” Frese said. “She’s done so much for Maryland and the career that she had...That was something that was really important for us, was to bring her back home with her team to where she played and be able to show that off to her players so they can recognize, like seeing her name up in the rafters and being able to see what a great player she was.”

Maryland and Georgian Court have never played before. The Lions, hailing from Lakewood, New Jersey, are coming off a truncated season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but an impressive one nonetheless. Georgian Court ran the table in conference play and made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid and won a game before bowing out to No. 2 Damien in the Regional Semifinals.

Players to know

Anyssa Fields, sophomore guard, 6-foot, No. 0 — Fields is coming off a sensational freshman season where she took home a ton of accolades. The Long Branch, New Jersey, native averaged 18.4 points per game, which paced the conference. Fields also averaged 10.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game. She was named the conference’s Women’s Basketball Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

Tian Addison, junior guard, 5-foot-5, No. 1 — While Fields led the way last season, Addison was not too far behind. Addison averaged 12.5 points, 3.7 assists and shot 40.4% from distance. Along with Fields, Addison was named to the eight-person All-CACC Women’s Basketball Team.

Hanna Thrainsdottir, senior forward, 6-foot, No. 15 — Thrainsdottir joined Fields and Addison as the only three players to start all 11 contests for the Lions last season. Thrainsdottir was solid, averaging 9.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. The Iceland product was second in the CACC in blocks, only 0.1 blocks behind her teammate, senior forward Leighanna Lister. The two players formed a formidable rim-protecting duo in 2021.

Strength

Rebounding. The Lions averaged a conference-leading 44.5 rebounds per game as a team last season. Across all of Division II, Georgian Court ranked 13th in rebounds per game. Though the Lions have seven players listed with a height of 6-foot or taller, they will most likely struggle with the size and athleticism of Maryland.

Weakness

Taking care of the ball. Last season, Georgian Court averaged 20.3 turnovers per game. The Lions responded by forcing nearly 19.8 turnovers per game, but giving the ball away like that will not be adequate against the Terps. Georgian Court ranked 212th in Division II in turnovers per game, a recipe for disaster against a pesky Maryland defense that forced 23 turnovers against Fairmont State.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland’s perimeter defense take strides against Georgian Court? Though the Terps did not play poorly defensively in their first exhibition, Frese felt disappointed in certain facets of the game. She specifically noted postgame that they should not be allowing opponents to take 31 shots from distance. Fairmont State capitalized on those opportunities, converting on 14 of them.

“[Defense is] just an area of concentration right now for us,” Frese said. “We know we can score the basketball, and that right now is the area we’ve really put the most focus on is on the defensive end. So way too many threes, our transition, we’ve got to be able to, and that’s just getting our rotations down.”

2. We may not see Diamond Miller, but when will she be back? Miller was absent in the Terps’ first exhibition game against Fairmont State. She was held out due to precautionary reasons initially, and it is unclear as to when she will return. It makes sense to hold Miller out for another exhibition game, but the situation past that is worth monitoring. The Terps take on No. 7 Baylor on Nov. 21.

“Day-to-day,” Frese said on Miller’s status. “Just knee pain that we’re just trying to rest right now. It’s kind of trial and error when we bring her back to make sure she’s pain-free.”

3. Will Maryland’s freshmen continue to play well? Guard Shyanne Sellers — ESPN’s No. 22 recruit in the Class of 2021 — was smooth in her first unofficial game. In 26 minutes of playing time, Sellers ran the offense for a large chunk of time in the second half. She finished with 15 points and five assists but also turned the ball over five times. Sellers’ rookie counterpart, forward Emma Chardon, looked uncomfortable at times but finished with eight points on 4-5 shooting.

“They’re coming in as freshmen, really just attacking their roles and having that confidence,” Masonius said. “They’re listening to, we have so many older players now on the team, so they’re just really taking the advice and listening to all the vets on the team. Really just embracing their role, they’re doing well, and they’re just going to keep getting better as the year goes on.”