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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Michigan State preview (part 2)

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The Terps will look to avenge their only loss in Big Ten play.

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

Maryland women’s basketball heads back on the road Thursday when it travels to Michigan State.

The Terps are coming off a wire-to-wire win on the road against Nebraska, which gives them a little more breathing room atop the Big Ten standings. Maryland is 9-1 in the Big Ten, and has a 1.5 game lead over Ohio State and Nebraska. The Terps also jumped into the AP Poll Top 10 for the first time this season on Monday, checking in at No. 10.

Maryland is currently in a stretch of five of seven games on the road, and it will only get tougher from here. Right now, Michigan State is the last team the Terps will play with a losing conference record. Maryland moved up to No. 13 in the selection committee’s rankings last week, so a loss could do some serious damage to its chances to host the first weekend at the Xfinity Center.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on BTN.

What happened last time

Michigan State became the first team not named Ohio State to beat Maryland since it joined the Big Ten, knocking off the then-No. 11 Terps, 82-68. Maryland looked out of sorts just a day after losing second-leading scorer Blair Watson for the season with a torn ACL, committing 24 turnovers and shooting 39 percent from the field.

(Here’s the preview and gamer from the first meeting.)

With Watson out, Maryland struggled to stop the Spartans’ guards. Taryn McCutcheon scored 25 points and hit six three-pointers, and point guard Shay Colley had 17 points and eight assists.

Maryland beat Michigan State, 89-72, in East Lansing last season on a day when quasi-future Terp Tori Jankoska surpassed 2,000 career points.

What’s happened since

Since Michigan State pulled off the upset, both teams have gone in opposite directions. Maryland has not looked great in every game, but has won its last five games since to improve to 20-3 overall. Two of those wins came against then-No. 12 Ohio State and Rutgers, which were the Terps’ most impressive wins this season.

The Spartans won at Illinois five days after knocking off Maryland and then went into a tailspin. They are currently on a five-game losing streak and have not looked the same since Colley injured her knee against the Fighting Illini. During its losing streak, Michigan State has averaged just 60.4 points per game and has shot 37 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range.

Three things to watch

  1. Can Maryland’s improved perimeter defense continue? Besides the turnovers, one of the big reasons the Spartans pulled off the upset was strong shooting from beyond the arc. Michigan State hit 9 of 22 threes against the Terps, and Indiana was excellent against Maryland five days later as the Terps were still adjusting to playing without Watson, who was one of their best perimeter defenders. Michigan State has struggled to hit threes since, while Maryland’s opponents opportunities have struggled to get clean looks from outside.

2. Which team comes out on top in the rebounding battle? Thursday’s matchup will feature two of the top three teams in rebounding margin in the Big Ten. Branndais Agee leads the Spartans with just 5.5 rebounds per game, but the Spartans have six players who average over four boards, while Maryland has four players who average over five rebounds a game.

3. Can Maryland put together a complete road performance? Away from College Park, the Terps have relied on a strong defense to grind out multiple road wins. They could have more motivation to shut the door early in this one, though, as the Spartans handed them an unexpected loss earlier this season.