Winners of three in a row, including victories against formidable opponents in Ohio State and Illinois, No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball will look to complete a season sweep of Michigan State.
The Terps most recently defeated the Illini, fending off an early deficit to outscore Illinois by 20 points in the second half en route to an 82-71 victory.
With just three games left in the regular season, Maryland is on the road to face off against the Spartans, winners of two straight. Michigan State was slated to play at Purdue on Wednesday, but the game was canceled in light of the tragic mass shooting on its campus Monday night.
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. Saturday on Big Ten Plus.
What happened last time
Maryland hosted Michigan State on Jan. 7, pulling out a gutsy 94-85 victory. The 94 points still stand as Maryland’s second-highest total of the season, but it was not easy sledding.
The Terps held a one-point lead after the first quarter, and the game was tied at 40 at the half.
“I don’t think we even flinch when games get close,” head coach Brenda Frese said postgame.
Maryland took over in the third, outscoring the Spartans 30-11, powering Frese’s squad to its fifth consecutive victory and fourth in a row in the conference.
The Terps dominated the Spartans in transition, scoring 20 fast break points compared to their opponent’s four. Maryland more than tripled Michigan State in points off turnovers; the Terps had 23 points off turnovers to the Spartans’ seven.
Senior guard Diamond Miller was dominant in the outing, finishing with 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three takeaways.
Five Terps finished in double figures: Miller, Faith Masonius (12), Shyanne Sellers (19), Lavender Briggs (15) and Abby Meyers (11).
Maryland tore up Michigan’s State defense just over a month ago, but the Spartans’ defense currently ranks in the top half of the conference, allowing 66.4 points per game.
Can the Terps put on another offensive clinic Saturday to complete the season sweep?
What’s happened since
These two teams have gone in almost completely different directions since they last met. Prior to January’s matchup, Michigan State was coming off a thrilling upset victory against No. 2 Indiana to cap a four-game overall win streak.
After falling to the Terps, the Spartans lost three games in a row, including a disappointing overtime loss to Wisconsin. They’re 3-6 since in that time but have won their past two matchups against Penn State and Wisconsin, respectively.
For Maryland, it was ranked No. 10 when it defeated Michigan State at home and has climbed to a No. 8 ranking since. It has won eight of its past 10, including wins over No. 12 Michigan and No. 13 Ohio State, but fell short in matchups against No. 2 Indiana and No. 7 Iowa.
The Terps sit at third place in the conference behind Indiana and Iowa, but have a chance at redemption against the Hawkeyes in a pivotal game next Tuesday.
Three things to watch
1. A double-bye clinched, but more at stake. With No. 2 Indiana defeating No. 12 Michigan Thursday night, Maryland secured a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. It has two more wins than Michigan and Ohio State, who are fighting against each other for the final spot for an automatic trip to the quarterfinals. With tough matchups against the Buckeyes and Iowa on tap to end the year, Maryland will look to close out the regular season on a high note as it faces an unlikely road to a regular season Big Ten title.
2. Michigan State has played its best basketball against the toughest opponents. Despite sitting at 13-12, the Spartans have challenged ranked teams this season. They’re 1-5 against ranked Big Ten teams but have competed well in each matchup. Outside of a 15-point road loss to Michigan, the other five matchups have been decided by 10 points or fewer. They defeated No. 2 Indiana by five and fell just short in overtime to No. 7 Iowa. Maryland will probably not be able cruise to victory Saturday.
3. Can anyone stop Diamond Miller? Michigan State was unable to contain Miller last time out, and it might be in trouble once again. Miller has looked unstoppable over the last four games, leading Maryland in scoring in each contest, averaging over 26 points per game in that span.