There are two blemishes on No. 8 Maryland’s record this season. Both zits came against the second and fourth best teams in the country, according to the AP Top 25 Poll.
Since a lopsided loss to Stanford on Nov. 27, the Terps outlasted an underrated Miami team in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and then took down Rutgers in the season-opener of conference play this past Sunday.
“You definitely have to wrap your mind around now having conference games in December when you have finished your non-conference slate, but this team is ready for it,” Head coach Brenda Freese said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re excited, and now to finally be able to come back home with our fans against a great team like Purdue, we’re gonna have to play hard for 40 minutes.”
There are still kinks to work out — like the 16 turnovers committed against Miami — but Maryland is poised to host the Boilermakers on the back of two positive results. The Terps will now face Purdue with a strong 8-2 overall record.
The contest is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff at Xfinity Center and will be streamed on the Big Ten Network.
Purdue Boilermakers (6-3, 0-1 Big Ten)
2020-21 record: 7-16 (4-14 Big Ten)
Head coach Katie Gearlds is in her first season in charge of the Boilermakers. The former WNBA first-round pick returns to where her career took off. She is Purdue’s ninth head coach in program history and was elevated from her position as an assistant coach in March of 2021 after Sharon Versyp retired.
Before she returned to West Lafayette, Gearlds was the head coach at Marian University for eight seasons. Under her guidance, the team won back-to-back NAIA National Championships in 2016 and 2017. To date, Gearlds is the winningest coach in Marian history with a 228-50 record, good for an 82% win percentage.
Gearlds is also a three-time NAIA National Coach of the Year and led Marian to six straight Crossroads League regular-season titles, four league tournament championships and seven appearances in the NAIA Tournament.
Gearlds also was named to the coaching staff for the 2021 USA Basketball U16 Junior National Team in 2021.
Players to know
Madison Layden, sophomore guard, 6-foot-1, No. 33 — Layden is averaging almost six more minutes a night than the next closest player; she barely leaves the floor. The Indiana native has been on the court for 36 minutes a game and leads the team in scoring (13 points) and steals (1.7). She also was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team last season. The loss of Kayana Traylor, Purdue’s top scorer a season ago who transferred to Virginia Tech, left a scoring void, and Layden is filling in nicely this season.
Ra Shaya Kyle, sophomore center, 6-foot-6, No. 24 — One of the tallest players in college basketball, Kyle is second on the team in scoring with 11 points per game and blocks over one shot a night. Unsurprisingly, the second-year player also leads the Boilermakers in rebounds with 5.7 an outing. Not necessarily a three-point threat — Kyle missed her one attempt this season — she is shooting 55% from the field. The stat line becomes even more impressive when considering Kyle plays less than 20 minutes per game.
“Another great post player,” Sophomore Angel Reese said of Kyle. “I may use my guard skills and being able to drive to the basket. She has more weight on me, so I’m gonna have to be sharp for her. She’s a really good post [player].”
Jeanae Terry, junior guard, 5-foot-11, No. 10 — Despite being one of the more experienced players on the team, Terry is a new face to West Lafayette. After two years at Illinois, Terry transferred to Purdue this season. The third-year player leads the team in assists (4.1). She’s second in rebounds (5.6), along with fifth in scoring (6.2).
Youth. Losing the 18th-best scorer in the Big Ten from a season ago in Traylor hurts, but the silver lining for Gearlds is that she’ll be able to build a base with players who theoretically will be around for at least another season. Two of the team’s top players — Layden and Kyle — are sophomores, and several other top contributors — Terry and Abbey Ellis (9.7 points per game) — are juniors.
Scoring. Last season, Purdue was the third-lowest scoring team in the conference with 64.6 points per game. On top of that, the Boilermakers gave the ball away more than 17 times a night. The team also ranked in the bottom half in field goal, three-point and free-throw percentages a year ago. Through nine games, Purdue has yet to eclipse 80 points.
Three things to watch
1. How many double-digit scorers can the Terps have? With more of the team getting healthy, Maryland again showed over the weekend that any number of players can score 10-plus points. Against the Scarlet Knights, it was Chloe Bibby, Katie Benzan, Ashley Owusu and Angel Reese. Against Purdue, who knows who it will be. One thing is for certain, though, the Terps have the talent to put on a show on the offensive end.
“Yeah, our team is so unselfish,” Reese said. “I mean, if somebody’s hot, of course, feed them. But, I mean, to have four to five players in double figures, that’s great.”
2. Will Maryland continue its streak of positive results against Purdue? Purdue is the ideal opponent for the Terps to ease their way into a daunting Big Ten schedule. Last season, Maryland defeated their conference foes by a total of 66 points. Frese will have her team poised to pick up another victory at home on Wednesday.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, and to see their unselfishness, they traditionally have a positive assist to turnover ratio,” Frese said of her team. “You see that consistently having the lineup, four, five, six players averaging in double figures. It means you have a championship mentality, and this team definitely does.”
3. What will the crowd be like for the first home Big Ten game of the season? Frese has used many press conferences this season to shout out the Maryland faithful. She has called them the team’s “sixth man” and has thanked the fans for their support. Attendees at the Xfinity Center on Wednesday evening should expect nothing less than a highly-energized crowd for the home team.
“Being able to have our amazing fans and family here it’s gonna be amazing, great environment,” Reese said. “I mean, Purdue is a great team, but we’re gonna come out strong and play Maryland basketball and I’m so excited. I think my team is really excited.”