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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Northwestern preview

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Just three days after blowing out Ohio State, the Terps will look to keep rolling.

Michigan State v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Just three days after an impressive shellacking of Ohio State, Maryland women’s basketball returns to the court against Northwestern.

The No. 14 Terps crushed the No. 12 Buckeyes 99-69 on Monday, a satisfying win against the team that had been a thorn in their side the past two seasons. Eleanna Christinaki powered Maryland in the first half, scoring 21 of her 26 points in the first 20 minutes, and Kaila Charles finished the job in the second half, scoring 22 of her career-high 32 points after coming out of the locker room. The sophomore guard also did an excellent job on Kelsey Mitchell, who scored just 15 points and was forced to be a facilitator rather than a scorer.

The Terps will look to carry the same energy and intensity from Monday into Thursday night’s matchup with the Wildcats. Northwestern is 9-12 this season, and has taken a step back after losing stars Nia Coffey and Ashley Deary. The Wildcats’ two conference wins came against cellar dwellers Illinois and Wisconsin.

With renovations taking place at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the game will take place at Beardsley Gym at Evanston Township High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, and the game will be streamed on BTN Plus.

Northwestern Wildcats (9-12, 2-5 B1G)

2016-17 record: 20-11, 8-8

Head coach Joe McKeown is 158-150 in 10 seasons at Northwestern. The Wildcats hadn’t been to the postseason since 1997 when McKeown was hired, and have been in the postseason five times since. Before Northwestern, McKeown had an incredible 19-year run at George Washington, winning 441 games and advancing to 15 NCAA Tournaments. He has 667 wins in 32 seasons as a Division I coach.

Players to watch

Lindsey Pulliam, freshman, guard, 5’10, No. 10. Pulliam has been the focal point of Northwestern’s offense from the start of her college career. She dropped 18 points in the season opener at Chicago State, and currently averages a team-high 14 points per game. A Silver Spring native, Pulliam attended Good Counsel and was WCAC Co-Player of the Year in 2015.

Abi Scheid, sophomore, forward/center, 6’2, No. 44. Scheid has taken a big step forward as a sophomore, averaging 12.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game after putting up 5 and 3.6 as a freshman. She’s a threat both inside and on the perimeter, hitting 39 percent of her three-pointers and 44.2 percent from the field.

Pallas Kunayi-Akpanah, junior, forward, 6’2, No. 14. The Nigeria native makes the most of her 24 minutes a game by averaging a double-double of 10.6 points and 11.1 rebounds a game. She’s Northwestern’s main threat inside.

Jordan Hamilton, freshman, guard, 5’8, No. 24. Hamilton is in charge of leading the Wildcats offense, and averages 7.8 points and 4.9 assists a game, but has just a 1.19-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Strength

Three-point shooting. Northwestern hits 35.8 percent of its shots from beyond the arc, which is 52nd in Division I. However, the Wildcats make just 4.2 game, and will have to hit a lot more if they want to pull off the upset.

Weakness

Forcing turnovers. The Wildcats force just 13.76 turnovers a game, which is 300th in the NCAA. One of the keys to upsetting Maryland is forcing it to make mistakes, which is something Northwestern doesn’t appear capable of doing.

Three things to watch

  1. Can Maryland avoid a hangover? If Northwestern was having a better season, this could have been a trap game. The Terps are coming off their best performance of the season and an emotional win, so it may take a few days to come back to earth. This question will be answered early, as Maryland has the talent to put the Wildcats away in the first half, but could let them hang around with a lackluster performance.
  2. Which Eleanna Christinaki shows up? The junior was at her best Monday night, providing a spark that gave the Terps the fast start they needed. But for every game where Christinaki looks like Maryland’s own Greek freak, she’s also had ones where she forces her own shot and disrupts the flow of the game. With Blair Watson out, Christinaki’s role as a scorer becomes even more important.
  3. How is playing time distributed? This could be the first time since Watson went down that Brenda Frese gives Sarah Myers and Aja Ellison more than mop-up duty. Even though Maryland has a full week off after this one, resting starters with the game locked up can’t hurt.

Prediction

Maryland wins, 84-66.