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No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball vs. No. 10 Indiana preview (part two)

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Terps look to finish regular season with a home win.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

No. 13 Maryland’s eight-game win streak ended Sunday against No. 6 Michigan. It was the Terps’ first loss since they fell to No. 17 Ohio State, then unranked, on Jan. 20. Maryland is 3-6 against ranked opponents on the season, with losses to No. 3 North Carolina State, No. 2 Stanford, No. 1 South Carolina, Indiana and Michigan, twice.

After holding the nation’s leading scorer, guard Caitlin Clark, to 19 points against Iowa and limiting Ohio State to 72 points, Maryland’s defense had trouble with Michigan forward Naz Hillmon on Sunday. One of the country’s premier post players went off for 29 points and 11 rebounds. This was after the Terps held Hillmon to nine points, her season low, the first time the two sides met.

Even though Maryland struggled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the team returned its second-leading scorer in Ashley Owusu. The junior guard had missed four games with an ankle injury picked up at the beginning of the month. Owusu understandably was a bit rusty and logged around 21 minutes on the court versus the Wolverines.

“The biggest thing right now for Ashley is getting her cardio back. She’s missed a lot of time,” head coach Brenda Frese said during Thursday’s media session. “She’s done a great job with rehab and physical therapy to return to the court, but she’s just getting that stamina and rhythm and timing back.”

Friday’s contest is set for an 8 p.m. tip and will air on Big Ten Network.

What happened last time

These two teams first met in Bloomington, Indiana, on Jan. 2 in what was a thrilling affair. Both teams went back and forth in a match that went to overtime. However, with a limited roster, Maryland fell to then-No. 8 Indiana, 70-63.

Things spiraled for the Terps in the extra period. Collectively, the visitors missed all seven shots they took from the field, five of which came from 3-point range. The only points Maryland put up in overtime were a pair of free throws. The Hoosiers made two field goals and five free throws to put the game to bed.

Things could have been worse for the away side in a contest where they held their opponents to just 11 3-point attempts and forced 19 turnovers. Indiana did outrebound Maryland, 37-35, but poor shooting from the Terps — 36% from the field, 23% from three — proved the difference in the first game of the new year.

Sophomore big guard Angel Reese led the Terps with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Junior guard Diamond Miller added 17 points and Owusu had 10. Guard Ali Patberg led the way for Indiana with 18, followed by 17 from forward Aleksa Gulbe and 15 from forward Mackenzie Holmes.

“We’re not the same team we were the first time we faced Indiana — Jan. 2 — compared to who we are now,” Frese said. “I know our kids are really excited and ready for the battle as they have been all season long, regardless of whatever we have faced.”

What’s happened since

Maryland has gone 8-1 including wins against two ranked opponents.

After six wins against unranked Big Ten opponents, the Terps defeated Iowa (81-69) and Ohio State (77-72) before falling to Michigan, 71-59. Within its eight-game streak, Maryland also had a mini 4-0 run without Owusu. Sunday’s loss ended what had been an incredible month, but there is still a lot of basketball left.

“We’ve won eight of our last nine, 13-1 at home,” Frese said. “We’re looking forward to our last regular-season game [Friday] and looking forward to having a great crowd and having everybody come out.”

After defeating Maryland for the first time in conference play, the Hoosiers defeated Wisconsin, Nebraska and Purdue before three consecutive cancellations hurt their momentum. After missing a trio of matches, Indiana fell by 15 to Michigan.

The Hoosiers then went 4-0 before a shock defeat to Nebraska. And since falling to the Cornhuskers, Indiana is 1-2. Most recently, it dropped back-to-back games to Iowa, losing by a combined score of 184-173.

Three things to watch

1. Who’s going to win the regular-season title?

Here are the current Big Ten standings:
1. Michigan: 12-3. vs. Michigan State, at Iowa
2. Ohio State: 12-4. vs. Penn State, at Michigan State
3. Maryland: 12-4. vs. Indiana
4. Iowa: 12-4. at Rutgers, vs. Michigan
5. Indiana: 11-4. at Maryland

Each team has one or two games remaining, but luckily for Maryland, Michigan and Iowa play each other in the final match of the season. Maryland needs some help to win the regular season, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that head coach Brenda Frese and her squad will be lifting their fourth straight and seventh in eight seasons.

“Every game is competitive,” Frese said. “And especially you see everybody beating each other at the top. For us, it’s being ready to put a 40-minute game together.”

2. Can Reese stay out of foul trouble? With interior players like Reese, Miller and redshirt junior forward Mimi Collins, all listed at 6-foot-3 on the team’s website, and graduate forward Chloe Bibby clocking in at 6-foot-2, Maryland has the third-high rebounding average in the conference (39.2 boards per game). Against Michigan, second-best (41), Reese got into foul trouble and eventually fouled out. Without its leading rebounder, Maryland lost the battle on the glass, 45-27.

3. Can Maryland continue holding it down on defense? In its two matches versus Iowa, Indiana's offense went off. And although they lost both games, the Hoosiers showed how electric their offense can be. Maryland's defense, which mostly struggled at the beginning of the season against ranked teams, had been trending in the right direction. And while the Michigan loss cannot be considered a blowout, the Terps will look to get back on track defensively versus Indiana.

“They’ve been scoring some points, but our defense has come a long way, and that’s what we’re really priding ourselves on right now,” Bibby said. “They have some great scores and facilitators on their team, so we just want to focus on stopping their plays, and playing as hard as we can — finding the Maryland defense.”