After a 2-1 weekend at the Fort Myers Tip-Off tournament, Maryland fell to No. 20 in the AP poll but has another test against a top-10 opponent in No. 7 Notre Dame. The game is set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in South Bend, Indiana, as a part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
On Monday, multiple reports came out saying this will be the last year of the challenge and that the Big Ten will be replaced by the Southeastern Conference.
Thursday’s game is the last tuneup before the Terps return home and begin Big Ten play on Sunday against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-0, 0-0 ACC)
Head coach Niele Ivey has been at the helm of the Fighting Irish for two seasons and is off to a roaring start in 2022. Her squad has routinely been in the conversation for the best team in the nation. Although it was before Ivey’s tenure as Notre Dame head coach began, the Fighting Irish were the national champions in 2018 with a three-point win over Mississippi State.
Notre Dame is proving yet again its case why it will be a force in late April and March, and a 6-0 start to the season bodes well for a team with a young head coach and a plethora of depth.
Scoring. The Fighting Irish have scored in the 80s or 90s in each game this season. While it hasn’t played the toughest schedule, winning games by as large of a margin as Notre Dame has is no easy feat. It has four players averaging double figures and Sonia Citron is close to averaging a double-double with 15 points and eight rebounds per game. As a team, Notre Dame hits 49.4% of its shots from the field and 40.6% from 3-point range.
Are there any? This team is sound across the board, and with how up and down Maryland’s play has been this season, it will be interesting to see what it can neutralize in Notre Dame’s game. Will the Terps hold the Fighting Irish to under 80 points for the first time this season? This game poses more questions that will be answered Thursday night.
Players to watch
Kaylee Watson, junior forward, 6-foot-4, No. 22 — Watson averages around nine points per game but scores them at an incredibly efficient rate of 57% from the field, making her a target to score consistently. In Notre Dame’s previous game against Arizona State, the New Jersey native had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. The Fighting Irish also went 12-for-16 in the final quarter (75%).
Lauren Ebo, graduate center, 6-foot-4, No. 33 — Ebo has the best field goal percentage on the team and averages 12 points per game. She had 20 points off the bench against Arizona State and snagged nine rebounds. Expect her to be a focal point in the offense for Notre Dame.
Sonia Citron, sophomore guard, 6-foot-1, No. 11 — Citron has started each game for the Fighting Irish. Her scoring contributions have been apparent, but her ability to crash the glass and rebound could give Notre Dame the edge over Maryland. Citron grabs eight boards per game and could be a force down low if the Terps can’t box her out.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland’s strength of schedule help it? As impressive as it is to be undefeated in late November, the Fighting Irish have had a relatively smooth docket, unlike Maryland, which has played multiple games against AP-ranked teams so far this season with more to come in the near future. Notre Dame has yet to play a ranked opponent. Maryland will be its first ranked opponent of the year followed by another ranked matchup against No. 3 UConn.
2. Can Maryland keep up with Notre Dame’s scoring? Notre Dame is tied for the fifth-best scoring offense in the county, averaging 90 points per game. Maryland, on the other hand, does not come within the top 50 schools. The Terps will need to have consistent scoring from everyone as it did against Towson and Pittsburgh in order to contend in this game.
3. Sharing the ball. Notre Dame ranks No. 15 in the country in assists. Its guards know how to spread the ball around and get other players involved. Olivia Miles leads the team in that category with over seven assists per game.