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Maryland women’s basketball at Minnesota preview

The Terps look to bounce back on the road.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland women’s basketball suffered its first loss in over a month on New Year’s Eve against Nebraska, snapping a seven-game winning streak.

The first half witnessed an intense, see-saw battle, but the Cornhuskers pulled ahead through their rebounding and 3-point shooting, capitalizing consistently on Maryland turnovers. Shyanne Sellers endured a tough outing, scoring only four points while committing seven turnovers.

The upcoming clash against Minnesota offers the Terps an opportunity to bounce back.

Wednesday’s game will begin at 8 p.m. and stream on Big Ten Plus.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-2, 1-1 Big Ten)

2022 record: 11-19, 4-14 Big Ten

In her first year leading Minnesota, head coach Dawn Plitzuweit has already overseen significant improvements from the team’s previous season. Before her tenure with the Gophers, Plitzuweit served as the head coach at West Virginia for a season, leading it to an NCAA Tournament berth. Her coaching journey also includes successful stints at South Dakota, Northern Kentucky and Grand Valley State. With a coaching career spanning 16 seasons, she holds an impressive 365-141 (.721) record.

Minnesota, with just two losses this season —suffered against powerhouses Iowa and UConn — has showcased impressive wins, including a dominant 76-57 victory over Kentucky and a hard-fought triumph over Purdue.

Players to know

Mara Braun, sophomore guard, 6-foot-0, No. 10 — Braun has been the Golden Gophers’ clear leader on offense this year, producing a team-high 19.8 points per game. She ranks second on the team in assists (44) and blocks (6). It’s also worth noting that she’s made 41-of-43 free throws this year.

Amaya Battle, sophomore guard, 5-foot-11, No. 3 — Starting all 13 games for Minnesota this season, Battle has been the primary facilitator, leading the team with 77 assists. She is also second on the team in steals (22) and points per game (10.4). Most recently, she put up a 16-point, five-assist performance against Iowa.

Mallory Heyer, sophomore forward, 6-foot-1, No. 24 — Heyer has also started each of the Golden Gophers’ 13 games this season. She leads the team in both offensive (31) and defensive rebounds (75), while averaging 9.2 points per game. Heyer is building off a freshman campaign in which she was one of four Golden Gophers to play and start in all 30 games.

Strength

Scoring. The Golden Gophers have a potent offense, scoring 79.5 points per game. It has also impressively held its opponents to just 57.5 points per game.

Weakness

Free-throw shooting. Aside from Braun, Minnesota has struggled from the free-throw line. It shoots just 68.3% from the stripe on 11.8 attempts per game, compared to its opponents 69.8%.

Three things to watch

1. Can the Terps bounce back? Now in the midst of Big Ten play, each game impacts seeding in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments significantly more. As the Terps prepare to face Minnesota, their adjustments from Sunday’s loss will be worth watching.

2. Can Riley Nelson build on her performance against Nebraska? Nelson delivered an 11-point performance against the Cornhuskers, shooting 3-of-4 from the field while also showcasing defensive prowess. Despite limited playing time, the five-star freshman’s role as a bench player holds promise. Strategically integrating her into late-game scenarios, especially when foul trouble affects other players, could provide an advantage for head coach Brenda Frese.

3. Could Frese make some lineup changes? In the Terps’ loss to Nebraska, two notable observations emerged: Lavender Briggs appeared ready to reclaim her starting role and Emily Fisher experienced a reduction in playing time. Fisher’s limited court time likely stems from Briggs’ return, yet sidelining the promising freshman entirely might impede her growth.