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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Wisconsin preview

The Terps return home to take on the slumping Badgers.

Maryland women’s basketball Kaila Charles vs. Georgia Tech Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

After grinding through the beginning of Big Ten play, Maryland women’s basketball needed a decisive, stress-free victory. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday, as the Terrapins rolled to a 76-56 win on the road at Indiana.

The main key for the Terps was their proficiency in what are commonly known as the “hustle stats,” or second-chance points and fast-break points. That’s an area where Maryland has struggled this season, but against the Hoosiers, the team broke out with 14 and 25 points, respectively.

“That’s how we want to play,” head coach Brenda Frese told reporters Wednesday. “We were pushing the tempo, being aggressive and we just had a ton more energy.”

“That was one of the things we needed to do in order to win the game,” junior forward Stephanie Jones said. “It’s keeping our energy up and playing Maryland basketball.”

The change in focus paid huge dividends for Maryland, which had its first 20-point margin of victory since all the way back to the last nonconference game of the season, a Dec. 20 matchup at Delaware that saw the Terrapins win 77-53.

Maryland’s next outing will be back in College Park on Thursday night against Wisconsin, which is coming off its first win following a six-game losing streak. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be watched on the Big Ten Network.

Wisconsin Badgers (11-10, 2-7 Big Ten)

2017-18 record: 9-21, 2-14

Head coach Jonathan Tsipis is in just his third season in Madison, hoping to bring the Badgers to prominence in a sport they’ve historically struggled in. He got his start in women’s basketball at the prestigious Notre Dame program, eventually taking over as the head coach for George Washington. After leading the Colonials to a 92-38 (.708) record in four years that included two NCAA Tournament berths, Tsipis is hoping to bring that same level of success to Wisconsin.

Players to know

Marsha Howard, senior, forward, 6’0, No. 11. In her final year with the Badgers, Howard has been the leader as they’ve fought valiantly against Big Ten opponents. After finishing second on the squad a year ago with 12.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, Howard has improved to 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds. The senior has posted seven double-doubles so far this season, and she has been the driving force behind the team’s wins this season.

Imani Lewis, freshman, forward, 6’1, No. 34. Lewis has been one of the most important members of the Big Ten’s standout freshman class so far this season, joining the ranks of Maryland’s Taylor Mikesell and Shakira Austin to provide huge contributions to a team filled with veterans. Across 21 games (including 20 starts), Lewis has been a perfect complement to Howard, posting averages of 12.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to help the Badgers control the play inside the paint.

Strength

Defense. Though Wisconsin has had trouble scoring the basketball (I’ll get more into that in a bit), it has played stout defense as the season has passed the midway point. The Badgers have allowed opponents to score just 61.2 points per game, which is in the top half of the conference. That’s been done by not allowing good shots to be taken—Wisconsin’s defensive field goal percentage is 36.9 percent, fourth in the Big Ten, and its defensive three-point percentage is 29.8 percent, which ranks third.

Weakness

Offense. As the Badgers have looked to post their first winning season since 2010-11, their main problem so far has been the offense as a whole. Scoring has been a big issue, as the team averages just 64 points per game, second to last in the conference. The lack of scoring has stemmed from a difficulty shooting the basketball, as their .393 field goal percentage, .275 three-point percentage and .543 free-throw percentage all rank either last or second to last in the Big Ten.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland follow suit with the rest of the conference? Wisconsin had a solid 9-4 record through nonconference play, but once the Big Ten schedule got underway, it’s been rough sledding for the Badgers. Not only are they 2-7 against conference opponents, but they’ve been outscored by an average margin of 11.3 points per game. Maryland is still the highest-ranked team in the league, so it should be able to keep that trend going.

2. Do the Terps stay consistent? One of Maryland’s faults to this point has been a failure to put together a strong performance in a game from start to finish. That changed against Indiana, as the Terrapins got out to a sizable lead by halftime and extended it by the final whistle. “We want to see that consistency,” Frese said. “The 40-minute game we played against Indiana is it.”

3. Can Marsha Howard and Imani Lewis be contained? Wisconsin’s entire offense is driven through the senior and freshman, respectively, who not only have the ability to finish at the rim, but can also distribute to shooters all over the court. In 21 games this season, the pair have combined for an average of 24.8 points, 16.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. The key to victory for Maryland will be shutting them down.