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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Purdue preview

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The Terps return home for the first time in two weeks and will look to keep rolling through Big Ten play.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 01 Women's - Rutgers at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Just like the last three years, Maryland women’s basketball is in good position to win another Big Ten regular season title.

After a 72-54 win over Rutgers on Sunday, the Terps are 11-1 in the conference and have a one and a half game lead over Ohio State and Nebraska with four games remaining. The next step to a fourth straight regular season title is a matchup against Purdue Thursday night.

Until recently, both teams were trending in the same direction. Maryland has won seven in a row, and the Boilermakers had won six of seven before dropping their past two games to Minnesota and Indiana. Now, Maryland is trying to strengthen its tournament resume while Purdue is just trying to stay on the right side of the bubble.

The game also has some implications for the Big Ten Tournament. Maryland can clinch a double bye with a win, and a win for Purdue would keep it in the running for a double bye of its own.

The Terps swept both meetings against the Boilermakers last year, winning one in West Lafayette and the other in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament championship.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on BTN.

Purdue Boilermakers (16-10, 7-5 B1G)

2016-17 record: 23-13, 10-6

Head coach Sharyon Versyp is 253-143 in 12 seasons at her alma mater. She’s led the Boilermakers to nine NCAA tournaments, including two Elite Eights in 2007 and 2009. She was the head coach at Maine for five seasons and Indiana for one before returning to Purdue.

Players to watch

Andreona Keys, senior, guard, 5’10, No. 10. Keys’ 13.5 points per game are a team-high, and she also chips in five rebounds per game. Keys does most of her damage inside the arc, as she shoots 49 percent from the field but just 29 percent on three-pointers.

Dominique Oden, sophomore, guard, 5’8, No. 11. Oden has taken another step forward after a solid freshman campaign, and is currently averaging 12.7 points and four rebounds a game. Her 61 three-pointers last year is a freshman record, and she’s shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc this season.

Ae’Rianna Harris, sophomore, forward, 6’1, No. 32. Harris is Purdue’s main post presence, averaging 12.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. She is also an excellent shot blocker, as her 3.1 blocks per game are second in the Big Ten.

Karissa McLaughlin, freshman guard, 5’7, No. 1. McLaughlin runs the offense for the Boilermakers and is a threat from outside. She averages 9.5 points and 3.5 assists per game and has hit almost 37 percent of her three-point attempts.

Strength

Three-point shooting. Purdue hits 36.9 percent of its three point attempts, which is 27th in Division I. Oden, McLaughlin and Lamina Cooper, who’s been in and out of the lineup recently with an illness, all shoot over 36 percent from beyond the arc. If the Boilermakers want to pull off the upset, they’ll have to hit their shots from outside.

Weakness

Rebounding. Purdue averages a Big Ten-low 33.7 rebounds per game. Maryland has struggled on the glass the last two games, so this could be a bounce-back game in that department.

Three things to watch

  1. Which tempo wins out? Both teams are efficient offensively, but at drastically different styles. Purdue averages 66.2 points a game, while Maryland averages 83.5. If the Terps build a big early lead, it could be tough for the Boilermakers to get back into the game.
  2. Does Maryland’s rebounding improve? The Terps have lost the rebounding battle in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Like Maryland, Purdue usually goes with a four-guard lineup, so the Terps could take advantage of the Boilermakers’ lack of size and struggles on the boards.
  3. Can Maryland keep it up defensively? The Terps are usually known for their offensive prowess, but have been making strides on the defensive end in Big Ten play. Maryland has allowed 70 points or fewer in all but one game, and the defense surrendered just 59.7 points a game in its three-game road trip last week.

Prediction

Maryland wins, 81-69