It’s been a long layoff for Maryland women’s basketball. The Terrapins haven’t seen game action since all the way back on Dec. 10, which was Field Trip Day, when the Terps rolled past Loyola (Md.) to an easy 83-48 victory.
But that was over a week ago, as the student-athletes were wrapping up their semesters with Finals Week. A lot has changed since that game. For starters, Maryland is no longer considered the seventh-best team in the country. The Associated Press now ranks the Terrapins at No. 5, a position the team hasn’t been in since the 2016-17 season. The Coaches’ Poll has Maryland ranked No. 5 as well.
And after her 17-point, 13-rebound performance against the Greyhounds, Shakira Austin was named the Big Ten’s Co-Freshman of the Week, the third such time she’s been honored in seven weeks this season. The five-star forward is averaging 10 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks off the bench.
With the last of the tests having been taken, it’s time for basketball once again. On Thursday afternoon, the Terrapins will take the quick trip up I-95 for a road game against Delaware. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET and will be streamed on YouTube.
Delaware Blue Hens (4-6)
2017-18 record: 19-13 (11-7 Colonial Athletic Association)
Head coach Natasha Adair is in just her second season in Newark. The first was a rousing success, as the Blue Hens made their first postseason appearance since 2014 while winning 10 conference games. They lost in the first round of the WNIT, but the season made a big stride in turning the program around. Before coming to Delaware, Adair headed up the programs at College of Charleston and Georgetown.
Players to know
Abby Gonzales, junior, guard, 5’7, No. 2. A year after finishing fourth on the team with 8.1 points per game, Gonzales has emerged as a leader on offense as a junior thus far. Through 10 games, she’s paced the squad with an average of 11 points and ranks second on the team with 3.2 assists a night.
Samone DeFreese, junior, forward, 6’0, No. 22. DeFreese was a vital part in the success of the Blue Hens last season. She was second on the team in scoring with an average of 11.5 points and 7.3 rebounds, only finishing behind Nicole Enabosi. In 2018, DeFreese is second on the squad in points and rebounds once again, averaging 10.3 and 6.2, respectively.
Jasmine Dickey, freshman, guard/forward, 5’10, No. 20. Despite having just nine games under her belt thus far, Dickey has become a key player for Delaware. The freshman is third on the team with 9.0 points per game, but her impact has been most felt on the glass. Dickey only stands 5’10, but she has led the team (and conference) with 9.4 boards per outing.
Turnover margin. Delaware hasn’t done a terrific job at taking care of the ball so far this season, as the Blue Hens have turned it over 16.9 points per game. However, their defense has been stingy and has forced the opposition to make mistakes often. Delaware ranks fifth in the conference and 89th in the nation with 18.9 turnovers forced per game, and its turnover margin of +2.00 is third in the conference.
Rebounding. In large part due to a lack of size, the Blue Hens have not done a good job at securing rebounds. Delaware averages 38.5 rebounds, a pretty average number. However, the team has allowed its opponents to outclass them on the glass. Opposing teams have averaged 41.0 boards when facing the Blue Hens, and that -2.5 rebounding margin places them last in the CAA.
Three things to watch
1. Is Maryland’s rest a big factor? As mentioned previously, the Terrapins haven’t played in a game since last Monday, Dec. 10. Delaware, meanwhile last played on Tuesday night in a win over Gardener-Webb. The Blue Hens have a pretty deep rotation, but Maryland’s extra week of rest could be a big advantage.
2. Does size make a difference? Delaware’s tallest player is junior Rebecca Lawrence, who stands 6’3. However, she has averaged just 15 minutes per game thus far. In terms of those who see a substantial amount of time on the court, they are severely lacking in height. That could be trouble against Maryland’s Shakira Austin and Brianna Fraser, who are 6’5 and 6’4, respectively.
3. Will Maryland’s strong run of play continue? An early-season issue for the Terrapins was their inability to put lesser teams away. But over the past three games, they have taken care of business when they were supposed to. Against UMBC, James Madison and Loyola University Maryland, the Terps won by an average margin of 30 points. Against a Delaware team that lost Nicole Enabosi, its best player from a year ago, to a torn ACL, Maryland could pull away early and stay far ahead.