It hasn’t always been easy, but through six games in the 2018-19 season, the No. 7-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team is undefeated.
Following a road win against then-No. 10 South Carolina, the Terrapins flew down to San Juan to participate in the Puerto Rico Clasico, a three-day round robin against Morgan State and Georgia. Despite some lengthy scoring droughts in both contests, the Terps pulled as away from the Bears on Friday before holding off a second-half Lady Bulldogs run on Saturday.
Maryland will now play its game in the ACC/Big Ten Women’s Challenge, which was established in 2007. The Terrapins have a 10-1 record thus far, with their lone loss coming at the hands of Notre Dame in 2014, Maryland’s first season competing on the Big Ten side of the contest. Last season, the Terps eked out a 60-59 win over Virginia in Charlottesville.
On Thursday, the Terrapins will face off against Georgia Tech, which holds a 7-4 record in the Challenge. In 2017, the Yellow Jackets dominated at home over Purdue. Thursday’s game tips off at 6:30 p.m. ET on BTN.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-1)
2017 record: 20-14 (6-10 ACC)
Head coach MaChelle Joseph is in her 16th season in charge of the Yellow Jackets, compiling a 299-192 (.609) record along the way. With 11 years as an assistant at Auburn, Purdue and Illinois before coming to Atlanta, Joseph has been a part of 18 NCAA Tournaments. She’s established an impressive coaching career, but Joseph will always be known for her playing days. A four-year starter at Purdue, the 1992 Big Ten Player of the Year graduated with the most career points in conference history, and she remains in the top 10 to this day.
Players to know
Francesca Pan, junior, guard, 6’1, No. 33. Since winning the 2016-17 ACC Freshman of the Year award, Pan has only gotten better with more experience. She has paced the team in scoring thus far, averaging 16.7 points while adding 5.8 rebounds per game.
Elizabeth Dixon, freshman, forward, 6’5, No. 22. Like Maryland, the Yellow Jackets have received a huge contribution from a freshman with impressive length. Dixon is third on the team in scoring, averaging 11.8 points per game on .651 shooting. She also leads the squad with 8.3 rebounds, placing her near the top of the ACC.
Elizabeth Balogun, freshman, guard, 6’1, No. 5. In her first year in Atlanta, Balogun has made a big impact immediately since arriving on campus. The guard from Lagos, Nigeria, ranks second on the team with 12.0 points per game, and she’s sporting a team-best .355 from beyond the arc.
Turnover margin. More often than not, the team that wins the turnover battle will win the game. That’s been the key to Georgia Tech’s success thus far, as the Yellow Jackets lead the ACC with a plus-4.5 turnover margin. They commit 18.0 turnovers per game, a relatively high number, but they’ve forced opponents to give the ball away a staggering 22.5 times per outing.
Passing. As mentioned above, Georgia Tech commits 18.0 turnovers per game. Its defense makes up for that carelessness, but one thing the Yellow Jackets have failed to do with any consistency is register assists. They average a conference-worst 11.3 assists per game, and that has led to a 0.63 assist/turnover ratio.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland play a full game? A problem the Terrapins have that was highlighted in Puerto Rico was their inability to play at a consistently high level for a full 40 minutes. Against Morgan State, Maryland failed to really jell until after halftime, and in Saturday’s game against Georgia, a miserable second half nearly led to the team’s first loss of the season.
2. Who wins the turnover battle? Both teams have had their struggles taking care of the ball through the first six games of the season. But unlike Georgia Tech, the Terrapins have a negative turnover margin thus far: minus-2.7. Maryland has been able to stay undefeated despite that, but against a quality Yellow Jackets team, it may not be as fortunate.
3. Can Georgia Tech’s scoring diversity continue? Most teams have one or two scorers who average double digits, but the Yellow Jackets have four. Maryland’s defense will have a tall task in keeping Georgia Tech off the scoreboard, as points can come from a variety of places.