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No. 6 Maryland women’s basketball vs. Coppin State preview

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The Terps make the short trip to Baltimore for their fourth road game of the season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

After a nine-day hiatus, No. 6 Maryland women’s basketball returns to the floor to take on the Coppin State Eagles in a Tuesday morning away matchup.

“We’ve had a spirited week of practices to be able to really work on us as our players are in final exams, so that’s been great,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Just having this extra practice time to be able to improve in a lot of areas, obviously rebounding was a major emphasis this week amongst a lot of things. But, excited about the matchup going into Christmas at Coppin State.”

Maryland’s break was well-deserved following its valiant road effort against No. 1 South Carolina on Dec. 12. It was a brilliant defensive game plan from Frese, who threw different zone-defense looks at the Gamecocks all game long. The Terps held South Carolina to its then-season-low scoring mark of 66 points — it only scored 55 points in its ensuing win over Duke — but could not get the job done on the boards.

South Carolina destroyed Maryland in the total rebounding battle, 64-31. The Gamecocks gathered more offensive rebounds (24) than the Terps had defensive rebounds (23). The byproduct of that was 24 South Carolina second-chance points. Despite that, sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese proved herself yet again with a monster game against one of the best players in the country in Aliyah Boston. Reese recorded 20 points and 10 rebounds, adding to her superstar season thus far.

The Terps, missing junior guard Diamond Miller (knee), stayed close against South Carolina despite a tough game from junior guard Ashley Owusu, who scored 11 points on only 3-of-17 shooting from the field.

Tuesday’s matchup seems like a perfect rebound spot for the Terps, who have to be feeling replenished after the long break. The game, slated for an 11 a.m. start, will be televised on Next Level Sports.

Coppin State Eagles (6-5)

2020-21 record: 2-13 (2-10 MEAC)

The Eagles are led by head coach Laura Harper, who is in her second season at the helm of the program. Harper is one of the all-time players at Maryland, helping lead the Terps to their only national title in 2006 and being named the 2006 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player. In the current record books, Harper ranks first all-time in career blocked shots 10th all-time in career rebounds in Maryland history. Her No. 15 hangs in the rafters of the Xfinity Center today.

“One, I love when our players go into coaching and Laura was always one of those types of players,” Frese said. “So passionate with the game, I’m not surprised she went into coaching...She coaches how she played. She always played with a really high energy, always diving on the floor, making plays for her teammates, a big reason why she was that Most Outstanding Player in that national championship game.”

Before arriving in Baltimore, Harper was the head coach at high school powerhouse Montverde Academy and was an assistant coach at Florida before that. The Eagles have had a respectable start to their season, defeating opponents like La Salle, Marshall and Saint Peter’s on the road. Harper is someone that Frese has immense respect for, as she noted in a Twitter response on Saturday.

Coppin State is coming off a 68-43 blowout win over Winthrop on Dec. 16.

Players to know

Aliyah Lawson, redshirt junior guard, 5-foot-7, No. 3 — The Ontario, Canada product has started all 11 games for the Eagles this season and is their second-leading scorer at 12.5 points per game. Lawson was named to the All-MEAC Second Team last season after pacing the Eagles with 14.5 points per game, a mark that ranked second in the entire conference. Lawson is also averaging 2.5 assists per game while establishing herself as Coppin State’s outside threat with a 33.3% three-point percentage.

Jalynda Salley, redshirt junior center, 6-foot-4, No. 45 — Salley is not only the tallest player on the Eagles roster, but she is also at least one inch taller than every Maryland player. Salley had a dynamite junior season in 2020-21, averaging 9.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game en route to earning Third Team All-MEAC and conference all-defensive team honors. Starting every game this season, Salley is posting 7.5 points, 5.9 boards and one block per game.

Jaia Alexander, graduate student guard, 5-foot-11, No. 20 — The former Clemson Tiger and Butler Bulldog is thriving with the Eagles, directing the team with 16.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Alexander was a career 8.2 point per contest scorer before transferring to her hometown Baltimore and has really exploded for Coppin State. However, Alexander has not played since Dec. 11 against Saint Peter’s, missing Coppin State’s last two games. Her status is a development to keep an eye on heading into Tuesday.

Strength

Defense. The Eagles boast one of the best defenses in the MEAC, holding opponents to a conference-best 36.3% clip from the field. Coppin State has also locked down the perimeter, also besting the rest of the conference by only allowing their opponents to shoot 29.8% from deep. Coppin State only allows 63 points per game, but that will be an extremely difficult task against an offensive machine like Maryland.

Weakness

Lack of firepower. Relatively, of course. The Eagles have had their fair share of success this season, as their winning record through non-conference play reflects. Coppin State only lost by single digits at Big East opponent Georgetown and only lost by 16 points at ACC foe Pittsburgh. But, Coppin State was clobbered by Virginia Tech, 85-32, and lost by 29 points to Rhode Island and East Carolina, respectively. Maryland will be by far the biggest test of Coppin State’s season, and it will likely be tough for it to generate much success against the Terps.

Three things to watch

1. What’s the latest on Diamond Miller? The Terps’ star junior guard has only played 15 minutes total in two games this season. Frese has considered her day-to-day with a knee injury for basically the entire season. Miller was in uniform and warmed up in each of Maryland’s last two games but was ultimately ruled out in both of them. It will be interesting to see if the nine days off helped Miller get back to full strength.

“She’s moving in the right direction,” Frese said. “I mean, she’s definitely participating in a lot more practices and she’s been working really hard between her rehab and her focus. So it’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

Frankly, the Terps will not need her against Coppin State. If she cannot go, Maryland has another nine-day break before it resumes Big Ten play against Illinois on Dec. 30.

2. Maryland owns the all-time series against Coppin State. Expect that to continue. In 15 tries against the Eagles, Maryland has won every single one of them. The matchups have never been particularly close either, with the average margin of victory adding up to 32.2 points per game. The two teams last met on Nov. 9, 2018, when Maryland won, 93-36. Maryland and Coppin State were slated to face each other last December, but the game was canceled due to coronavirus issues within the Eagles’ program.

3. Can the Terps work out some final kinks before Big Ten play? Maryland is 9-3 and ranks No. 6 in the nation, but this team’s maximum potential is still ahead of it. Two of the Terps’ losses were in The Bahamas with only five true rotation players, and the other loss came against South Carolina. While there probably will not be much to take away against the Eagles, a better rebounding performance could be a confidence boost for the Terps. Maryland has a chance to run through the motions once more before conference play picks up.

“Just going back and looking at the film, the South Carolina game and what we did wrong and what I did wrong, personally,” Reese said. “And I know rebounding was a big thing. So making sure that I box out on rebounds and of course playing defense and not taking any plays off.”