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No. 16 Maryland women’s basketball at Rutgers preview

The Terps look to stretch their win streak to five to begin 2023.

Photo courtesy of Erin Tudryn/Maryland Athletics

No. 16 Maryland women’s basketball opens the year with a Big Ten clash with Rutgers at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. Monday on Big Ten Network.

The Terps (10-3) are coming off an imposing 107-85 home victory over Minnesota on Dec. 30. Maryland had four players score in double figures, led by senior Diamond Miller’s 22 points and five steals. With the victory, Maryland secured its second conference victory and hit the century mark for the first time this season.

Rutgers (6-9) suffered a decisive 90-72 loss to Penn State after shooting just 47.1% (24-for-51) from the field. The Scarlet Knights got off to a slow start, as they trailed 53-29 heading into intermission. Rutgers is 2-2 in its past four contests and will look to develop some consistency the rest of the way.

Maryland owns a 31-12 series lead over Rutgers and will look to win the first of their two meetings this season.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-9, 0-3 Big Ten)

Rutgers is led by head coach Coquese Washington, who’s in her first season guiding the women’s basketball program. She succeeded Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer, who announced her retirement in April 2022 after an award-filled 50-year coaching career.

Washington is not a stranger to the Big Ten, as she roamed the sidelines for 12 seasons for Penn State. During her career for the Nittany Lions, she amassed a 209-169 record and four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

The three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year arrived on campus following a two-year stint as Notre Dame’s associate head coach. Washington and the Fighting Irish appeared in last season’s NCAA Sweet 16, falling 66-63 to NC State in a thrilling matchup on March 26, 2022.

While Washington can roam the sidelines, she was a floor general in her decorated playing career at Notre Dame. She’s ranked within the top 10 all-time in assists and steals.

History has proven that Washington can restore prominence to a basketball program, so it will be worth monitoring Rutgers for years to come.

Players to watch

Kaylene Smikle, freshman guard, 6-foot, No. 2 — Smikle has hit the ground running in her first season with the Scarlet Knights. Despite only starting two games, she leads the team with 15.7 points per contest. The Farmingdale, New York, native has scored in double figures in 11 games this season. On Dec. 15, she recorded a season-high 26 points and eight rebounds in Rutgers’ 77-56 loss to Princeton. Smikle was a four-star recruit and the No. 11 wing in her recruiting class, per espnW. In her short time with Rutgers, Smikle has quickly established herself as the “go-to” scorer for the team. It will be interesting to see how Maryland defends the electric freshman sensation.

Awa Sidibe, senior guard, 5-foot-11, No. 11 — The athletic Rutgers guard is enjoying a terrific senior campaign, evidenced by a career-best 10.9 points per game. Sidibe has started every game for Rutgers while corralling 6.1 rebounds a clip. She leads the team with 3.3 assists per contest, with seven games of at least five assists or more. The senior guard is an agile defender that uses her length and instincts to cause havoc for ball handlers. While her scoring may fluctuate, her effort and ability to play within the team are clear.

Chyna Cornwell, junior forward, 6-foot-3, No. 54 — Cornwell is third on the team with 9.5 points a game and leads Rutgers with 8.8 rebounds per game. She has five double-doubles on the season, highlighted by her monster stat line of 18 points and 14 rebounds in their 76-68 victory over Hampton on Dec. 10. Maryland would be wise to box out Cornwell to limit her effectiveness on the glass.


Tenacity. Rutgers is a team that plays extremely hard for the entire 40 minutes of action. In their Dec. 4 meeting with No. 4 Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights entered the fourth quarter trailing just 61-49. The 2022-23 Rutgers team will battle the entire 94 feet of play and remains in every game due to their outstanding effort.


Scoring. The Scarlet Knights are dead last in the Big Ten with 64.6 points per game. Rutgers has two players scoring in double figures while possessing an eight-player rotation. The teams at the top of the Big Ten bode high-scoring offenses, so scoring in bunches bodes well for your chances of competing. In three of their conference losses, Rutgers is averaging a worrisome 68 points per game. If they want to make some noise down the stretch, Rutgers will need to identify ways to generate more points on the scoreboard.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland start 2023 on the right foot by extending their winning streak? The Terps ended last year on a high note following a 107-85 victory over Minnesota last Friday. Maryland played a complete game against the Golden Gophers, shooting 53.2% from the field and 39% from 3-point range.

Maryland will look to start the new year by extending its win streak to five games with a victory over Rutgers. The Terps have built confidence, momentum and chemistry after securing close victories over Purdue and then-No. 6 UConn.

2. Will the Terps continue building chemistry in a road Big Ten matchup? With a team featuring nine newcomers, the consensus was that it would take time for this team to build chemistry. Many could not predict when the Terps’ chemistry would begin to click.

Over the course of December, there was one thing that was clear as day: this Maryland team is beginning to gain continuity by playing with one another. The Terps are moving the ball with precision, setting strong screens for one another and trusting one another on defensive rotations. Maryland’s starters have set the tone, but reserves Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs have been crucial in the team finding its identity. Maryland will look to continue to develop its chemistry in a road tilt with Rutgers.

3. With two matchups slated between Rutgers and the Terps this month, can the latter pick up a road victory before the scene shifts? Maryland and Rutgers will become familiar with one another, as a second matchup is set for Jan. 15 at the XFINITY Center. The Terps won the season series (2-0) last season by a wide 145-114 margin. Maryland will look to pick up its second road Big Ten victory of the season before a brief home stint on Jan. 7 versus Michigan State. The Terps are playing well and will look to avoid a letdown. With the calendar shifting, Maryland will look to continue making progress, and that starts with a showdown with Rutgers.