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Maryland women’s basketball vs. UMass Lowell preview: The Terps should have a fairly easy time in this one

This game should be easy, but not as easy as last week’s exhibition games.

Scenes from 2016 Maryland Madness Sammi Silber - Testudo Times

After making national headlines for two blowout wins, Maryland women’s basketball opens up its season against UMass Lowell Sunday afternoon.

The No. 6 Terps have some unfinished business after a stunning upset to Washington in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Top scorers Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones return, as does solid defender and lights-out three-point shooter Kristen Confroy.

Also back are Brianna Fraser and Kiah Gillespie, who will both have a chance to carve out serious minutes after the departure of Malina Howard and Tierney Pfirman.

But those two will have a lot of competition, as Brenda Frese brought in the top recruiting class in the country. Destiny Slocum will start at point guard, and Kaila Charles and Blair Watson can contribute right away on the wing. Center Jenna Staiti looks like she’ll only get better as the year progresses, and Sarah Myers adds depth at guard while Stephanie Jones adds depth at forward.

Redshirt junior Ieshia Small will finally make her Maryland debut after sitting out last year after transferring from Baylor, and will add depth at point guard.

We’ve seen Maryland demolish a Division II and Division III team in exhibitions, and this game will once again be one where the Terps can afford to work out some issues before the tougher parts of their non-conference schedule.

The River Hawks are entering their first year as a full fledged member of Division I and won just four games last year, and started off this season with a 90-56 loss to Towson.

UMass Lowell River Hawks (0-1)

The coach

Jenerrie Harris. She’s 18-40 in just over two seasons as head coach of the River Hawks. Prior to coming to UMass Lowell she was an assistant coach at Navy from 2009-2014, where she helped lead the Midshipmen to three NCAA tournaments.

Players to know

Kayla Gibbs, forward, junior 5’11, No. 1: Gibbs was the River Hawks' top scorer and rebounder last year, averaging 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. She also led the America East with a .606 field goal percentage. Don’t expect her to shoot that well Sunday, though, as she will have to go through Brionna Jones to get to the basket.

Nicole Hayner, guard, senior, 5’10, No. 34: Hayner averaged 11.7 points per game last season, and also was third in the America East with a .389 three-point percentage.

Megan Hendrick, guard, freshman, 5’9, No. 3: Hendrick led the River Hawks with 15 points in the season opener.

Strength

Three-point shooting: Finding a strength for this team was tough, but the River Hawks were third in the conference with 5.3 threes per game last season, and led the conference with a .332 three-point percentage.

Weaknesses

Scoring: UMass Lowell averaged just 58.1 points per game last year, which would have been 291st in the NCAA if they qualified.

Forcing Turnovers: The River Hawks averaged eight more turnovers than they forced last season, which was 343rd out of 344 Division I teams. They should have a lot of trouble with Maryland’s full court press.

Prediction

Maryland, 95-45