No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball is rolling at the right time with the Big Ten Tournament and end of the regular season inching closer. Maybe the loss to Iowa a few games ago was just what the Terps needed to rekindle the fire they generated early in the season — it certainly seemed that way after it nearly held a Big Ten team scoreless in a quarter Thursday.
The Terps (20-5, 11-3 Big Ten) have a litany of upperclassmen who are the biggest contributors to the program. On their senior day — second senior day for some — it may provide added motivation to get a quality win.
Sunday’s game is set for a 1 p.m. tipoff at the XFINITY Center.
Illinois Fighting Illini (19-6, 9-5 Big Ten)
Head coach Shauna Green is brand new to the Big Ten and in her first year at the helm has her mostly-youthful team sitting in the middle of the pack at this juncture of the season. Her previous coaching experience was in the Atlantic 10 Conference coaching the University of Dayton, where she won five regular-season titles.
Players to know
Genesis Bryant, junior guard, 5-foot-6, No. 1 — Bryant is the star of the Fighting Illini. However, it remains to be seen if she will be available for the game after she played 10 minutes and scored three points at Nebraska on Thursday; she left after sustaining an injury. Bryant averages nearly 15 points per game and has started 14 games this season.
Makira Cook, junior guard, 5-foot-6, No. 3 — Cook is a big reason why Illinois shoots so well. She leads the team with 18 points per game and if Bryant is out against Maryland, look for Cook to have the ball in her hands most of the game.
Kendall Bostic, junior forward, 6-foot-2, No. 44 — Bostic is perhaps the most well-rounded player on the Illinois roster. She averages a double-double with 10 points and as many rebounds per game. Couple that with her tremendous 64.9% field goal percentage, and Bostic is a legitimate offensive threat who will likely defend Diamond Miller or Abby Meyers.
Long-range shooting. Illinois leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting, and perimeter defense has been something the Terps have been working on of late. However, they are the second-worst team at defending the 3-pointer, allowing teams to shoot just under 34%. Illini guard Genesis Bryant is second in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage shooting 43.8%.
Possibly no Bryant. If Bryant does not play against Maryland, it leaves a glaring hole the Terps will need to exploit early. If she plays and isn’t fully recovered, it could hurt the Illini more than if she doesn’t play at all. If she is in fact out for the game, Illinois will have to run the offense through other means.
Three things to watch
1. Senior day. Maryland’s seniors and graduate students will be honored before the game for their contributions to the program. For some, it’s their second senior day and the final curtain call of their college careers. Meyers, who was at Princeton before Maryland, told reporters Wednesday that she feels lucky to have another senior day and it doesn’t happen to everyone. Meyers has been one of the most impressive scorers for the Terps this year, shooting 38% from 3-point range.
2. The Northwestern game was telling. Two things that stuck out against Northwestern are that freshman guard Bri McDaniel made the most of her minutes and is deserving of more. Her career-high 14 points demonstrated she can contribute when her confidence is there. The other thing is that Maryland plays a good zone defense. It’ll be interesting to see how its zone approach works against a higher-level team in the conference.
3. One more round. After its game against Illinois, just Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State are left on the docket for Maryland. These next few games have plenty of postseason implications for both the Big Ten and the NCAA tournaments. If Maryland is awarded a top-four seed for March Madness, Maryland will host the first and second round in College Park.