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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Rutgers preview

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The Terps continue Big Ten play against the slumping Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers Introduce Steve Pikiell Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images

After a week off, Maryland women’s basketball returns to the court Thursday against Rutgers.

Just three days after its best performance of the season, a blowout win over then-No. 12 Ohio State, the Terps barely escaped Evanston with a 68-65 win over Northwestern. Maryland never matched the intensity it showed against the Buckeyes, and had multiple scoring droughts against one of the Big Ten’s worst teams.

That ugly game was good preparation for Rutgers, who loves to slow it down and plays excellent defense. In last year’s 80-71 win over the Scarlet Knights, Frese described their offense as “like going to the dentist and getting drilled.”

C. Vivian Stringer’s squad rode that game plan to a 16-2 record and their best start in a decade following a dreadful 6-24 campaign last year. However, the Scarlet Knights have stumbled recently, losing four of their last five. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Rutgers either. In the next four games, the Scarlet Knights travel to Maryland, host Michigan, go to Ohio State and then play the Terps again.

Maryland also has a tough stretch ahead if it wants to win a fourth straight Big Ten regular season title. Seven of its last eight games come against teams with a record of .500 or better in conference play. The Terps enter this one in first place in the Big Ten with a 7-1 record, and were ranked 11th in the most recent AP Poll.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, and the game will be streamed on BTN Plus.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (17-6, 5-4)

2016-17 record: 6-24, 3-12

Head coach C. Vivian Stringer is 471-260 in 23 seasons at Rutgers. She has 994 wins in her 48 year coaching career, which means she could become the sixth women’s basketball coach in NCAA history to reach 1,000 wins before season’s end.

Players to know

Tyler Scaife, redshirt senior, guard, 5’9, No. 3. Scaife has shouldered the scoring load for Rutgers this season after missing last year with an injury. Her 20.3 points per game are 13 more than anyone on the Scarlet Knights. She broke out of a shooting slump last Saturday in a loss against Indiana, scoring 17 points and on 8-of-14 shooting after shooting 34.6 percent over the last four games.

Stasha Carey, redshirt junior, forward, 6’2, No. 35. Carey is Rutgers’ main option down low, averaging 7.2 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game. She sat out last year after transferring from Pittsburgh.

Jazlynd Rollins, senior, guard, 5’7, No. 1. Rollins has been the Scarlet Knights’ sixth player, averaging 6.3 points per game off the bench. She scored 15 points against Maryland last season.

Strength

Defensive pressure. Rutgers is known for its “55” defense, which switches between a man and zone press. The Scarlet Knights force 20.91 turnovers per game, and their 12.6 steals per game are ninth in Division I.

Weakness

Three-point shooting. Rutgers has struggled from deep, hitting just 29.7 percent of its shots from beyond the arc. Maryland is the best three-point shooting team in the conference at 40 percent, so the Scarlet Knights will need to step up in that area if they want to pull out a win.

Three things to watch

1. Which style of play wins out? These two teams could not play more opposite brands of basketball. One likes to run up and down the court like there’s no tomorrow, while the other slows down the game and forces opponents to work for every basket. This is similar to Maryland’s matchup at Virginia earlier this season, where the Cavaliers controlled the tempo but the Terps grinded out a win down the stretch.

2. Can Maryland limit Tyler Scaife? Although Rutgers also has six players who score between five and seven points a game, stopping Scaife is the key to slowing the Scarlet Knights offense. Expect Kaila Charles to follow the redshirt senior all night as long as she stays out of foul trouble.

3. What Maryland team shows up? Since Blair Watson tore her ACL, Maryland has looked amazing against Ohio State and lackluster in its other three games. It shouldn’t be hard for the Terps to get up for one of the top teams in the conference, but their performance could be an indicator of what to expect down the stretch.

Prediction

Maryland wins, 70-61.