No. 10 Maryland women’s basketball is coming off one of its best wins of the season, taking down No. 13 Michigan, 72-64, this past Thursday. The victory solidified the Terps’ position in the top four of the conference, with Iowa and Ohio State tied for second. Indiana leads the Big Ten with a 9-1 conference record.
The Terps have won 10 of their last 11 games and have a chance to make that 11-of-12 with a bout against Penn State on Monday. Maryland has won all 12 matchups in the series since entering the Big Ten.
Consecutive matchups in the days after Monday’s game against No. 10 Iowa and No. 2 Ohio State loom large, but the Terps need to take care of business against the Nittany Lions at XFINITY Center first.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on Big Ten Network.
Penn State Nittany Lions (12-9, 3-7 Big Ten)
Despite having seen growth during head coach Carolyn Kieger’s four-year tenure, the Nittany Lions have been unable to dig themselves out of the bottom part of the Big Ten. After a fairly encouraging nonconference slate in which they finished 9-2, it’s been tough sledding since.
Outside of an impressive 10-point victory against Purdue earlier this month, Penn State has found itself searching for conference wins yet again.
It’s lost four of its last five, including a tough overtime defeat at Rutgers this past Thursday. Despite positing near-average marks in most statistical categories, it has struggled to turn some good individual talent into wins.
Players to know
Makenna Marisa, senior guard, 5-foot-11, No. 20 — Marissa leads Penn State in all facets of the game, and has done so for the past four years. The team’s top scorer and assister is having another outstanding season after receiving First Team All-Big Ten honors last year. She’s averaging close to 20 points per game in conference play this year, and is one of the league’s best offensive players.
Leilani Kapinus, redshirt sophomore guard, 5-foot-10, No. 5 — While Marisa orchestrates the offense, Kapinus is a force on defense. She’s coming off a standout freshman campaign where she was named to the All-Big Ten freshman team. Her 33 blocks, 59 steals and 165 rebounds were all top 10 for a freshman in program history. She’s averaging an impressive 4.3 takeaways per game while also chipping in on the offensive end with 11.3 points per game.
Taniyah Thompson, senior guard, 5-foot-11, No. 23 — As shown by this list, size is not a strength of the Nittany Lions. However, their guards get it done, and Thompson looks to be finding the favor of Keiger. After coming off the bench for most of the season, she’s played heavy minutes in two straight games. The senior brings a ton of experience from her three years at East Carolina, where she was one of the best players in the AAC. She’s scored over 10 points in four of her last five outings.
Steals. Penn State, a small team that likes to get out in transition, has had a lot of success turning teams over this season. The Nittany Lions average close to 13 steals per game, which ranks second in the conference behind only Ohio State. Kapinus leads the way with 71 steals on the season.
Road play. Penn State hasn’t won on the road this season. It is 12-9 overall, but 0-6 on the road. It almost broke that streak when it brought Rutgers to overtime recently, but lost in a thriller. In Penn State’s five conference games, its defense has surrendered an average of 90.8 points per game.
Three things to watch
1. Maryland can’t overlook a “tune up” game. While much of the focus on the Terps is centered around upcoming matchups against Iowa and Ohio State, the Terps need to take care of downing Penn State. The Nittany Lions kept their games against Michigan and Indiana relatively competitive, so there should be an expectation that they’ll compete hard Monday night.
2. Diamond Miller and the Terps have sliced through Penn State before. As previously mentioned, Maryland hasn’t dropped a game to Penn State since joining the Big Ten. Last year, Maryland cruised to victory in both meetings, scoring a combined 188 points. Miller led the way in both games, scoring 24 and 19 points, respectively.
3. Can the “X-factor” build on her best performance of the season? Senior guard Lavender Briggs has found her stroke over the past few weeks, and her clutch 14-point performance helped the Terps down Michigan, with head coach Brenda Frese calling Briggs the team’s “X-factor” going forward. It is known from her time at Florida that she’s a gifted scorer, and having her as a secondary threat off the bench will be instrumental with Maryland having one of the toughest remaining schedules in the country.