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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Penn State preview (round 2)

The Terps return home, and look to return to the win column.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Maryland vs Nebraska Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Riding high on a three-game winning streak, Maryland women’s basketball traveled to East Lansing for a battle against No. 17-ranked Michigan State on Thursday night. But the No. 9 Terrapins were completely outclassed by the Spartans, falling behind 20-4 just seven minutes into the game and never retaking the lead. After cutting the deficit to three by halftime, they got their doors blown off in the third and fourth quarters, which led to a 17-point loss.

It was Maryland’s first loss of the new year and second in 18 days, when a New Year’s Eve home matchup against Rutgers went awry from the start and continued that way until the final buzzer. Once ranked as high as No. 4, Maryland will most assuredly find itself outside the top 10 for the first time this season once the rankings are released on Monday.

But before that happens, the Terps will have a chance to get back in the win column on Sunday afternoon, as they’ll host Penn State for a 2 p.m. ET matchup that can be watched on ESPN2.

What happened last time

Yes, Maryland and Penn State have already played this season, and thanks to some odd scheduling from the Big Ten, they’ll face off for the second time in just over three weeks.

On Friday, Dec. 28, the Terrapins and Nittany Lions kicked off conference play in State College. Maryland entered an impeccable 11-0, while Penn State held just a 7-4 mark after some rough patches in nonconference action.

The Nittany Lions actually led 57-56 after 30 minutes of play, and Maryland was on the brink of a major upset. But the Terps dominated in the fourth quarter, winning the period 21-4 en route to a 77-61 victory. Kaila Charles led the way with 23 points, and Stephanie Jones and Taylor Mikesell supported her with 17 and 13, respectively. The Nittany Lions were carried by Teniya Page (24) and Kamaria McDaniel (16), but nobody else scored more than five points.

What’s happened since

Following that near-loss to Penn State, Maryland has seen defeat twice. In the very next game, a home battle against Rutgers, the Terrapins were outmatched from the onset and failed to break through against a stout Scarlet Knights defense. And two and a half weeks later, they were bullied on the road against Michigan State, falling behind early and never being able to recover.

The Nittany Lions have also struggled since that matchup to open Big Ten play, which has been far from kind to them thus far. Penn State has alternated losses and wins, falling to Indiana on the road on New Year’s Eve before beating Wisconsin the week after. Last time out, Ohio State beat them in State College in overtime.

Three things to watch

1. How do the Terrapins bounce back? Following Maryland’s last loss, they struggled mightily at home against the Buckeyes needing a strong fourth-quarter boost to get back in the win column. Charles led the charge in that one, scoring a game-high 24 points while hitting 10 of 11 free throws to clinch the victory. She was held to just three points on Thursday, and the team will likely turn to her to beat Penn State.

2. Can Teniya Page be stopped? In what has been a lean year thus far for the Nittany Lions, Page has been a bright spot. Now in her final year in the program, the 5’7 guard has averaged 20.2 points per game, which not only ranks second in the conference, but also puts her in the top-25 in the nation. Against the Terps, the senior managed 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting, and the key to victory will be forcing someone else on Penn State to beat them.

3. Does Brianna Fraser get more minutes? Fraser was on the outside of the rotation looking in on Thursday until foul trouble gave her an extended look against the Spartans. She made the most of her chances, scoring a game-high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 8-of-13 from the free throw line. Fraser isn’t the scorer that Stephanie Jones is nor the rebounder/defender that Shakira Austin is, but her performance last time out could lead to a larger role than before.