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Maryland women’s basketball vs Northwestern preview

The Terps open Big Ten play at home.

Emily Fisher (No. 34) played a career-high 29 minutes against George Mason Sunday.
Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

After a week-long hiatus, Maryland women’s basketball will begin Big Ten play Sunday against Northwestern.

The Terps are in the midst of a four-game winning streak, last defeating George Mason, 86-77. Trailing by nine points at halftime, Maryland rallied in the second half, led by Shyanne Sellers’ career-high 28 points. Faith Masonius was also crucial, recording 15 points, five rebounds and three assists off the bench.

Sunday’s game against the Wildcats will begin at 1 p.m. and stream on Big Ten Plus.

Northwestern Wildcats (3-5, 0-0 Big Ten)

2022-23 record: 9-21, 2-16 Big Ten

Joe McKeown has been the Wildcats’ head coach since 2008. He ranks fourth among active Big Ten coaches in wins and has guided the program to eight winning seasons. In the 2019-20 campaign, McKeown led Northwestern to its second Big Ten regular-season title. However, following another winning campaign in 2021-22, the Wildcats went 9-21 last season.

Their start to this season has also been difficult, and they will look Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak. Similarly to Maryland, Northwestern has struggled against ranked opponents, suffering a 90-52 loss against No. 13 Florida State and a 110-52 trouncing at the hands of No. 16 Notre Dame. Its wins came against Illinois-Chicago, Omaha and Southeast Missouri State.

Players to know

Caroline Lau, sophomore guard, 5-foot-9, No. 2 — Following an impressive freshman campaign, Lau has started each game this season. She’s notched double-digit assists in three games, including an impressive 16 point, 15 assist performance against UIC.

Paige Mott, senior forward, 6-foot-1, No. 20 — Mott is Northwestern’s leading rebounder, recording at least 10 thrice. Against Illinois-Chicago, she managed 20 boards. She’s also averaging nearly 1.5 blocks per game.

Hailey Weaver, junior guard, 5-foot-11, No. 11 — Weaver leads the team with 12.9 points per game, scoring over 10 points in seven of eight games. She’s also second on the squad with 14 steals.

Strength

Free throw shooting. Northwestern ranks third in the Big Ten from the free-throw line with a 77.6% clip. However, it has reached the line on average less than 14 times a game, the third-lowest number in the conference.

Weakness

Turnovers. The Wildcats have been sloppy with the basketball, turning it over 138 times through eight games. Comparatively, their opponents have turned the ball over a total of just 112 times.

Three things to watch

1. Maryland looks to find its groove in Big Ten play. While nonconference play was a disappointment for Maryland, failing to win any of its ranked games, it has been able in past years to enhance its resume in Big Ten play. Last year, Maryland went 15-3 in conference play.

Over the past five seasons, the Terps have won 76 of 89 conference games, and were picked to finish fifth in this year’s conference preseason poll.

2. Will Emily Fisher continue to see time? The freshman impressed against George Mason, notching season-highs in rebounds (8), blocks (2) and minutes (29). She could continue to provide a steady, physical presence off the bench alongside Masonius.

3. Can the Terps get out to a fast start? Against Green Bay and George Mason, Maryland had to battle its way back in the second half to secure the victory. Sloppy starts will be tougher to battle through in conference play, so see if they can push the pace in the beginning, which will require spot-on shooting, defensive rebounding and quality transition offense.