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No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball vs. No. 9 Michigan preview (part two)

Maryland’s final away regular-season match comes against a tough Wolverines squad.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After a stellar performance against No. 18 Ohio State at Xfinity Center on Thursday, No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball heads to Ann Arbor, Michigan, looking to extend its win streak on Sunday from eight to nine against a Wolverines team that handily defeated the Terps the first time the two sides met.

Ohio State started strong Thursday night, but Maryland turned things around in the third quarter to regain the lead and never looked back. Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese led the team with 21 points and 15 rebounds and junior forward Diamond Miller added 18.

One game after holding the nation's leading scorer — Iowa guard Caitlin Clark — to 19 points, Ohio State guards Taylor Mikesell (29) and Jacy Sheldon (22) had big nights for the visitors. But outside of Mikesell and Sheldon, no other player eclipsed nine points. What’s more, the Buckeyes’ two leading scorers accounted for 71% of their team’s offense.

Junior guard Ashley Owusu, who was honored before the game for winning the 2021 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, given to the nation’s top shooting guard, missed her fourth consecutive game after injuring her ankle on Feb. 3 versus Michigan State. She remains day-to-day.

Sunday’s contest is set for a 3 p.m. tip and will air on Big Ten Network.

What happened last time

These two teams first met in College Park, Maryland, on Jan. 16 in what was an emotional game for the Terps as head coach Brenda Frese’s father, Bill, passed away earlier that day. Frese still coached the game, but Maryland fell to the then-No. 11 Wolverines, 69-49.

The Michigan loss came after two convincing victories against Penn State (106-78) and Minnesota (87-73), but Maryland could not translate its positive momentum at home against the Wolverines.

The Terps started slow and went into the second quarter down 26-16 and never managed to get into any rhythm. Maryland played its worst quarter of the season; as a team, it scored just three points in the second, missing eight of its nine shots and turning the ball over eight times.

Maryland also failed to register a single player in double figures for the first time all season. Both Reese and graduate forward Chloe Bibby logged nine points. The team collectively went 16-51 from the field and 5-for-20 from three.

For the Wolverines, junior guard Maddie Nolan hit seven 3-pointers for a game-high 21 points. The Indiana native took 11 shots from behind the arc. Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico played six players north of 20 minutes and didn’t dig into her bench. In what was a difficult afternoon in College Park, Maryland held Naz Hillmon, one of the top players in the country, to a season-low nine points.

What’s happened since

Maryland has done a lot of winning.

During its eight-game winning streak, Maryland has bested a combination of unranked and ranked opponents. Most recently, it toppled No. 22 Iowa (81-69) and Ohio State (77-72). Before their current win streak, the Terps had a 1-5 record against ranked opponents.

However, with their final two outings coming versus two of the Big Ten’s heavy hitters, Maryland can finish the season 5-5 in meetings with ranked opposition.

Michigan looked to be well on its way to contending with No. 6 Indiana for the Big Ten title, winning five straight after a blowout at Xfinity Center, but the Wolverines have suffered two shock defeats to Michigan State (63-57) and Northwestern (71-69). In comparison, Maryland narrowly defeated the Spartans (67-62) and crushed the Wildcats (87-59).

Back-to-back losses for Michigan have opened the door for Maryland to claim its sixth regular-season title and fourth consecutive. Indiana (11-2), Maryland (12-3), Michigan (11-3) and Ohio State (11-4) all are vying for silverware at the end of the season.

Three things to watch

1. Can the defense continue to dominate? It might not seem like it, but considering Caitlin Clark leads the nation with over 27 points per game, holding her to 19 was a massive win for the Terps. They had limited success against Ohio State’s two top offensive players but shut down the rest of the team. The issue with Michigan is that the Wolverines have proven scorers up and down the lineup. Nolan already has torched the Terps from three, Hillmon averages 23.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, and junior guard/forward Leigha Brown puts up 18.2 points a night.

2. Will Owusu return? One of the country’s leading facilitators remains day-to-day with an ankle injury suffered against Michigan. After donning a walking boot, Owusu went through her pregame progressions Thursday night but did not make an appearance. What Maryland has been doing without Owusu — defeating Iowa and Ohio State — undoubtedly is impressive, but her floor vision would be invaluable against Michigan, although we won’t know until tip-off whether or not the third-year guard will take the court.

3. Cutting the nets. Of the four teams vying for the Big Ten regular season championship, Ohio State has the easiest remaining schedule. Each team other than Maryland has three games remaining. The Buckeyes face Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. Indiana gets Iowa twice and Maryland while Maryland faces Michigan and Indiana. And Michigan hosts the Terps before a rematch with Michigan State and Iowa. Regardless of other results, should Maryland win out, it would claim the outright regular-season title. First, though, it’ll have to take care of business against Michigan.