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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Northwestern preview: Terps look to win Big Ten home opener

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After almost a week on the road, Maryland returns home to take on the Wildcats.

Connecticut v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Maryland women’s basketball started Big Ten play with wins at Minnesota and Nebraska, and will look to go 3-0 to start conference play when it takes on Northwestern on Saturday.

Following a close win at Minnesota, the Terps had no trouble in a 93-49 win against Nebraska. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough led the way Tuesday with 19 points and seven rebounds, and Brionna Jones added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Brenda Frese was able to use her whole bench in the win, as everyone except freshman center Jenna Staiti played 10 minutes or more.

Northwestern should present a bigger challenge. The Wildcats are 13-3 and 1-2 against ranked opponents this season, which includes a 73-68 win over then-No. 16 Florida on Nov. 25. (That Florida team included Eleanna Christinaka, who transferred to Maryland Thursday.) Maryland beat Northwestern three times last season, and has never lost to the Wildcats.

The game tips at 2 p.m. and will be televised on BTN.

Northwestern Wildcats (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten)

2015-16 record: 18-17, 4-14, WNIT first round

Head coach: Joe McKeown is in his ninth year at Northwestern and has a 142-131 record. He’s led the Wildcats to five postseason appearances, including an NCAA tournament berth in 2015. According to the program’s website, he guided Northwestern to more wins in his first six seasons than in the previous 11 combined.

Before coming to Evanston, McKeown had a highly successful 19-year run at George Washington, leading the Colonials to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances. His 651 total victories are the 11th-most among active head coaches.

Players to know

Nia Coffey, senior, forward, 6’1, No. 10. Coffey is a three-time All-Big Ten selection, and was named All-American honorable mention last season. She currently averages 20.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. She scored a career-high 31 points in an 83-62 loss to the Terps in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

Ashley Deary, senior, guard, 5’4, No. 3. Deary is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and is fourth in the nation with 4.19 steals per game this season. She’s also a threat on the offensive end, averaging 11.5 points and 6.9 assists.

Christen Inman, senior, guard, 5’10, No. 24. Inman ranks second on the team with 13.6 points per game, and also shoots 38.9 percent on three-pointers. She ranked eighth in the Big Ten last season in field goal percentage, shooting 52.4 percent from the field.

Lauren Douglas, redshirt senior, 6’2, No.11. Douglas missed all of last season with an injury, but was the team’s best scoring option off the bench before that. She returned to that role this season, and currently averages 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds a game. She has started the Wildcats’ last two games, averaging 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds.

Strengths

Assists. The Wildcats rank 16th in the nation with 18.1 assists per game. Deary’s 6.9 assists per game are 14th in the country.

Blocking. Northwestern averages 6.4 blocks per game, good for ninth in Division I. This may not pose a problem for Brionna Jones, who excels at getting her own rebounds.

Weakness

Rebounding. Northwestern has just a plus-1.1 rebounding margin. The Terps have a plus-16.8 margin, which is second in the country.

Prediction

Maryland wins, 85-70.