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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Michigan preview: Terps host dangerous Wolverines team

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The Terps can improve to 6-0 in the Big Ten, but Michigan won’t make it easy.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Connecticut at Maryland Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland women’s basketball is 5-0 in Big Ten play and 17-1 overall, and the team remains third in both the AP Poll and Coaches Poll. After thundering past Iowa in the second half Saturday, the Terps return home Thursday to face Michigan.

The team released its promotional schedule for the rest of the season Tuesday. Maryland will give out bobbleheads for Brionna Jones (Jan. 22), Brenda Frese (Jan. 29) and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Feb. 26).

The two seniors continued their excellent play last week. Jones earned Big Ten Player of the Week by recording 67 points and 25 rebounds in two games, while Walker-Kimbrough notched 20 points in the second half Saturday after coming off the bench for the first time since 2014. It’ll be interesting to see if Frese puts Walker-Kimbrough back into the lineup against Michigan or sticks with Ieshia Small.

The Wolverines, by all accounts, are the third-best team in the Big Ten behind Maryland and No. 16 Ohio State. They’re 29th in the AP Poll and 27th in the Coaches Poll. Michigan is 4-1 in the conference, with the only loss coming to the Buckeyes, 96-87, on Jan. 7. The team averages 79.9 points per game; the Terps are at 90.8.

Thursday’s game tips at 6 p.m. ET on BTN. There should be a large number of points.

Michigan Wolverines (15-4, 4-1 Big Ten)

Last season: 21-14, 9-9 B1G

The coach: Kim Barnes Arico is in her fifth year with the program; her teams have won 20 games or more in each season so far. She was hired in 2012 after spending 10 seasons at St. John’s.

Players to know

Katelynn Flaherty, junior, guard, 5’7, No. 3. Flaherty’s one of the best scorers in the Big Ten, averaging 19.1 points per game on the strength of a .443/.392/.882 shooting line. She’s second on the team in assists (3.3 per game), but is best known as a high-volume shooter who can catch fire. She hit eight threes and scored 38 points against Ohio State.

Hallie Thome, sophomore, center, 6’5, No. 30. After being named an all-conference freshman selection last year, Thome has taken her game to the next level recently. She’s averaging 15 points and just under eight boards this season and leads the team with 20.2 points and 10.8 rebounds in conference play. Her 37/14 against Wisconsin on Jan. 1 earned her a split of the Big Ten Player of the Week honor with Jones. Those two will match up down low, which should be exciting.

Kysre Gondrezick, freshman, guard, 5’9, No. 1. A five-star prospect on ESPN (one spot ahead of Stephanie Jones at No. 51 overall), Gondrezick didn’t take long to establish herself in the Big Ten. She replaced senior Danielle Williams in the lineup at the start of conference play and has been exceptional since, averaging 14.8 points and making 12-of-25 threes.

Siera Thompson, senior, guard, 5’7, No. 2. The four-year starter at point guard is on pace to graduate as Michigan’s career leader in minutes played and assists. She isn’t counted on to score as much as she was earlier in her career, but she still knocks down nearly 40 percent of her threes and is a career 90 percent foul shooter.

Strength

Forcing turnovers. Michigan’s opponents average over 18 turnovers per game, and the team boasts a plus-3.4 turnover margin for the season (that’s down, understandably, to plus-2.2 in the Big Ten). Seven different Wolverines have at least 13 steals this year.

Weakness

Depth. Aside from the four players listed above and junior wing Jillian Dunston, who rounds out the starting lineup, the Wolverines are quite thin. Only two other players have played in both conference games, and only Williams has averaged double-digit minutes. There also isn’t much size in the rotation other than Thome, so if Jones gets her in foul trouble (as she’s known to do), it could be a long night.

Prediction

Maryland wins, 84-71.