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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Michigan preview

Brenda Frese goes for win No. 501 as the Terps return home.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Michigan vs Penn State Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland women’s basketball is starting to look like its old self, at least for now.

The competition wasn’t great on Tuesday night as the No. 9 Terrapins traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, to face off against the Huskers. It was a dominating, wire-to-wire victory for the Terps, their first in what felt like forever.

In that win, head coach Brenda Frese tallied her 500th career victory, breaking yet another milestone in her tenure at Maryland.

Now, it’s time to come back home for a weekend battle against Michigan. The Wolverines are coming off an overtime thriller against Northwestern on Tuesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET and can be watched on the Big Ten Network.

Michigan Wolverines (11-5, 2-2 Big Ten)

2017-18 record: 23-10, 10-6

Head coach Kim Barnes Arico is in her seventh season in Ann Arbor, taking over in 2012. With a record of 145-78, she is already the winningest coach in the history of the women’s basketball program. Michigan is the fifth stop along the way for Barnes Arico, previously leading the programs at Farleigh Dickinson, NJIT, Adelphi and St. John’s. She has led teams to seven NCAA Tournaments, including a Second Round appearance last year with the Wolverines.

Players to watch

Hallie Thome, senior, center, 6’5, No. 30. One of just three seniors on the roster, Thome has cemented herself as the leader of the team in her final year in Ann Arbor. A year after finishing second in scoring behind Katelynn Flaherty, Thome has paced the Wolverines with 12.9 points per game on 58.6 percent shooting from the field. Thanks to her length, she also averages 5.9 rebounds.

Naz Hillmon, freshman, forward, 6’2, No. 00. In her first year as a member of the Wolverines, Hillmon has averaged just 20.0 minutes per game while coming off the bench in all 16 appearances thus far. That hasn’t stopped the freshman from making a tremendous impact, however, as she is second on the team with 11.9 points and leads the squad with 6.6 boards per outing.

Strength

Rebounding. With its two best players loaded with height, Michigan has been exceptionally stout on the glass so far this season. On the year, the Wolverines average 42.7 rebounds per game, good for second in the Big Ten (behind Maryland) and 38th overall in the nation. Michigan allows just 31.1 rebounds to opponents, giving the team a rebound margin of plus-11.6, which ranks second in the conference and 11th in the country.

Weakness

Defense. Michigan’s defense hasn’t been bad this year—far from it. But their level of play hasn’t been up to par with the rest of the team’s performance. The Wolverines allow opponents to hit 37.3 percent of their field goals, which ranks in the middle of the Big Ten, and opponents average 91.0 points per 100 possessions, placing Michigan in the bottom half of the country (per HerHoopStats).

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland keep the momentum rolling on offense? Tuesday’s win over the Huskers saw the Terrapins have their best shooting performance of the season. They broke the 80-point threshold for the first time in two weeks while hitting 51.6 percent of their field goals. But most impressively, Maryland hit 10 of 17 shots from beyond the arc, good for a 58.8 percent clip.

2. Can Hallie Thome be contained? A 6’5 senior, Thome not only has the size to wreak havoc for opposing defenses, she also has the experience to take advantage of mismatches and weaknesses. Shakira Austin will likely be tasked with guarding her fellow 6’5 center, but the freshman hasn’t been deployed in the fourth quarter of close games over the past few weeks. If the score is close down the stretch, it could be up to Brianna Fraser to make plays late on the defensive end.

3. Does fatigue play a factor? Maryland essentially coasted to an easy victory in the second half on Tuesday night, allowing key players to rest in the fourth quarter and give some extra minutes to reserves. Michigan, on the other hand, played a grueling overtime game against Northwestern, barely squeaking by with a 79-78 victory after 45 minutes. Both teams have had three full days to rest, but that slight edge in rest could make a difference, especially late in the game.