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No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball vs. Penn State preview (part two)

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The Terps hit the road in search of a sweep over the Lady Lions.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletes
UMTerps

Riding a two-game winning streak, No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball heads to University Park, Pennsylvania, for the second of two games against the Penn State Lady Lions.

The Terps are coming off a 72-55 win over Rutgers on Thursday night. The Scarlet Knights are winless in nine tries in Big Ten play, but they gave the Terps all they could handle down the stretch. Rutgers cut it to a 37-36 ballgame with less than seven minutes to play in the third quarter, forcing head coach Brenda Frese to burn a timeout. From that point forward, the Terps went on an extended 14-2 run, burying Rutgers.

“Holding [Rutgers] to 55 points was also really big,” said Frese in Thursday’s postgame presser. “Fewest points we’ve allowed a team in the conference.”

Graduate student forward/guard Chloe Bibby had a fantastic game on her bobblehead night with her parents in attendance from Australia. Bibby posted a stat line of 22 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and zero turnovers.

Maryland’s opponent this Sunday, Penn State, has stumbled thus far, sitting with a 9-10 overall and a 3-6 mark in Big Ten play.

Sunday’s contest is set for a 2 p.m. tipoff and will air on BTN Plus. Now, let’s dive into the Terps’ upcoming matchup.

What happened last time

Maryland throttled the Lady Lions in the last matchup between these two teams, winning 106-78 on Jan. 6. It was the second-highest scoring output of the season for the Terps — they scored 108 against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 18 — and by far their best offensive performance in Big Ten play.

Junior guard Diamond Miller, who had to switch to the No. 30 jersey in the middle of the game, excelled with a season-high 24 points on an efficient 10-of-13 shooting clip from the field. Miller was a team-leading +31 against the Lady Lions, but her backcourt partner in junior guard Ashley Owusu had quite a game, as well. Owusu scored 20 points and dished out five assists, only turning the ball over once.

“Great start in the right direction, no question,” said Frese in her Jan. 6 postgame presser. “I thought we look a little bit more like ourselves. It was fun to watch, fun style of play, everybody was able to share the basketball and make easy plays for one another.”

The Terps were clicking on all cylinders against Penn State, shooting 54.8% from the field, 47.8% from three-point range and 93.8% from the charity stripe. Maryland also dominated the Lady Lions in key aspects of the game such as points off turnovers (26-6) and points in the paint (48-28).

Penn State’s lone bright spot against the Terps in the first game was junior guard Makenna Marisa. Marisa, a 22.2 point per game scorer, scored 29 points back in early January. Still, Maryland was forceful enough to make a 29-point outing insignificant in the big picture.

“Honestly, what’s crazy is I don’t think Makenna played a very good game at all for her standards and was still able to have 29 points,” said Penn State head coach Carolyn Kieger in her Jan. 6 postgame presser. “I think Maryland did a phenomenal job in that first half really disrupting her and kind of getting in her head a little bit. I think she was rattled there but showed a lot of composure to come back and have that great second half.”

The Lady Lions had 20 turnovers against Maryland the first time around, and they will need to clean that up if they want a chance of knocking off the Terps on Sunday.

What’s happened since

The Terps were ranked No. 10 in the nation when they hosted Penn State just over three weeks ago. Since then, they have fallen seven spots and are 3-2 in their last five games.

Ten days after defeating the Lady Lions, Maryland suffered a blowout loss to Michigan at home and followed that up with a tough loss in a slugfest at Ohio State. Neither of those is what one would label “bad” losses, and the Terps were able to rebound by cruising to double-digit wins over Northwestern and Rutgers.

On the other hand, Penn State has struggled immensely. The Lady Lions are losers of three straight games and are 10th in the Big Ten standings as of Friday.

Penn State won two of its next three games after its initial game against Maryland, beating Illinois by 18 and winning by four at Northwestern. However, it was unable to string that momentum into continued success. In its last game on Thursday, Penn State fell to Michigan State by 21 points at home.

“Obviously, when adversity hits, you got to become stronger,” said Kieger in Thursday’s postgame press conference. “And we’ve had a long stretch here of game after game after game where we haven’t been able to really fix a lot, more so, prep, so I’m really looking forward to Saturday after a day off because we clearly need a day of fixing and practice, and getting back to the basics.”

Marissa has not been the problem for Penn State; she has averaged 23.2 points in Penn State’s last six games, including a 32-point performance against Iowa.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland continue to take advantage of this part of their schedule? The way Maryland’s Big Ten schedule shaped up, there was going to be an opportunity to rattle off a bunch of wins in late January and early February. So far, all has gone according to plan. The Terps do not play a single top-four Big Ten opponent until they travel to Iowa on Jan. 14.

Upcoming games at Michigan State and against Nebraska will be tough, but if Maryland takes care of business against lesser teams it could quietly creep higher on the national radar. The Terps were left out of the NCAA women’s selection committee’s initial top-16 seeds, but the good thing for them is that it is only January. A lot will happen between now and March, and Maryland needs to make the most of its opportunities against these teams.

2. Will the Terps continue their recent dominance against the Lady Lions? In the all-time series between the schools, Maryland owns a slight 18-14 advantage. A closer look, though, shows that the Terps have won 11 straight games against the Lady Lions, and the last few have not been particularly close. Maryland has won every single Big Ten game against Penn State and has not lost to it since the 2003-04 season. The Terps have won each of their last six matchups against Penn State by an average margin of 25.7 points per game. It would be a surprise if the Lady Lions keep it close on Sunday.

3. Will Chloe Bibby star once again for Maryland? Bibby’s great game against Rutgers did not come by chance. She has hit her stride in January, scoring more than 20 points in three of Maryland’s last five games. Bibby has averaged 17.2 points on 55.7% shooting and has grabbed 6.2 rebounds per game in her last five outings. Junior guard Diamond Miller has been up and down since returning from a knee injury and redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins has been shaky, as well. Bibby is performing like an All-Big Ten player lately, rising to the task when Maryland needs her.