Maryland women’s basketball’s season has been a confusing one, to say the least. Marquee wins against top-20 opponents in Baylor and Notre Dame have made the Terps look like the contenders that fans are accustomed to seeing throughout head coach Brenda Frese’s tenure, but they also have two losses to unranked teams in DePaul and Nebraska.
Sunday’s defeat against Nebraska was a shockingly disappointing one, with the Cornhuskers outscoring the Terps 59-31 in the second half en route to a 90-67 victory.
Maryland came into the contest 15-0 all time against Nebraska and undefeated in conference-opening tilts since joining the Big Ten in the 2014-15 season.
At 7-3, the Terps will look to rebound this Thursday as they travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to face a high-scoring Purdue team that garnered votes in the latest AP poll.
Purdue Boilermakers (8-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
2021-22 record: 17-15 (7-11 Big Ten)
Head coach Katie Geralds is in her second year with her alma mater and has steered the program in the right direction. Last season’s 17-15 mark was a 10-win improvement from the 2020 campaign and the Boilermakers have built upon that success so far this season.
The only knock against the Boilermakers could be their lackluster strength of schedule’s lawith no ranked opponents on the slate before Thursday’s game, but they’ve handled business — impressively so.
Their only falter came in a heartbreaking 76-75 loss to Florida State in the Cancun Challenge. They come into Thursday’s matchup riding a high after a thrilling 76-71 overtime win against Michigan State to open Big Ten play.
The Boilermakers look like yet another team in the Big Ten that is getting better and better and will provide a tough test, especially on the defensive end, for a No. 20 Maryland squad still searching for its identity.
Players to know
Lasha Petree, graduate guard, six-foot, No. 11 — On a team of scorers, Petree leads the bunch. The fifth-year guard is in her final year of eligibility after exhausting her senior year at Rutgers. 2,000 career points is a possible feat for her to achieve this season, and she’s averaging over 18 points a game so far. From three, she’s clicking at a 32.7% rate for her career, and she’s scored in double digits every game this season.
Jenae Terry, senior guard, five-foot-11, No. 10 — After spending two seasons at Illinois, the versatile guard took the 90 minute drive east to West Lafayette to join the Boilermakers. She’s thrived so far, being named a team captain in her first year with the team. She does it all for Purdue, notching two triple-doubles last season. She’s the only player in the school’s history — man or woman — to record two triple-doubles in a season. She’s averaging over seven points and assists this season to go along with 9.1 rebounds a game. Terry’s as efficient as they come and her versatility is tough to match up against.
Jayla Smith, sophomore guard, six-foot, No. 3 — The only homegrown product on this list has played meaningful minutes off the bench this year and brings a scoring ability along with defensive tenacity. She appeared in 30 games as a freshman and looks poised to eclipse that mark this year, averaging close to eight points a game to go along with 10 steals and a couple blocks.
3-point shooting. Outside shooting has the chance to be devastating for the Terps, with their perimeter defense being among the worst in all of Division I. Purdue is a top-15 3-point shooting team, knocking them down at a 37% clip this season. Purdue attacks you with shooter after shooter, and if Maryland can’t clean up its defense in that department, it’ll be in for a long night.
Turnovers. The Boilermakers are coming off a contest in which they conceded 30 turnovers, bringing their total up to 146 on the season. Like the Terps, they look to thrive in transition, but have come close to costing themselves positive results. Maryland has not executed well enough in scoring off takeaways this year, but it’ll have its chances Thursday night.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland respond? The Terps were humiliated in their own building Sunday and will no doubt be playing with added motivation against Purdue. They were at their worst in the second half against Nebraska and will need to be back at their best to down a high-octane Boilermaker squad.
2. Can Abby Meyers find her groove? When Frese brought in Meyers, she knew she had an experienced scorer coming to the squad. Early on, the Princeton transfer was just that, netting over 10 points in each of her first eight games. Over the last two, though, she has a total of eight points. After her two-point performance against the Huskers, Frese called her out, saying, “We need Abby to do more.”
3. The defense needs a 360-degree turnaround. Nebraska’s offense is very good, and it carved up Maryland’s defense. In the words of Frese, “they exposed us.” Purdue’s offense is slightly better on paper, so Maryland will have its hands full on the road.