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No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball vs James Madison preview

The Terps head on the road for the first time in the 2019-20 season.

Wager v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

After suffering a deflating loss to South Carolina on Sunday, No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball heads on the road for the first time this season to face James Madison Wednesday night.

The two teams will play as the second game of a doubleheader in Harrisonburg, Virginia — James Madison’s men’s team plays Shenandoah in the first contest. For the Terps, this will indeed be another test.

“We’re going to have to go in with great poise and composure,” head coach Brenda Frese said Tuesday. “[James Madison] is a really difficult place to play in. We’re coming in behind their men’s game tomorrow night, so just being able to take the lessons that we’ve learned from [South Carolina] and moving into JMU and just keeping our composure [will be important].”

This will be the 10th all-time meeting between the Terps and Dukes since James Madison won the series opener in 1974. Maryland has won the last nine matchups, including an 87-63 victory in College Park last season.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on MASN and available online via FloSports.

James Madison (2-0, 0-0 CAA)

2018-19 record: 29-6, 17-1 CAA, WNIT Semifinalist

Head coach Sean O’Regan took over the James Madison program in 2016 and has kept the it playing to a high standard, winning at least 23 games in each of his first three seasons. Last year, the Dukes won the CAA regular-season title with a 17-1 conference record and reached the WNIT semifinals, despite being upset in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament.

Players to know

Senior guard Kamiah Smalls (No. 3) is the heart and soul of the James Madison team. The back-to-back preseason CAA Player of the Year is averaging 23.5 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from behind the arc. Last season, Smalls averaged a career-high 15.9 points and added 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

Freshman guard Kiki Jefferson (No. 30) has burst onto the scene in her first college season. In her debut against Longwood, Jefferson went for 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting (3-of-6 on threes) while also nearly grabbing a double-double with nine rebounds. That performance earned her CAA Rookie of the Week, and while she posted just two points and six boards in her second game, expect big things from the 2019 USA TODAY Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

Redshirt senior center Kayla Cooper-Williams (No. 31) is James Madison’s main threat inside the paint, standing at 6’2 and averaging 11.5 rebounds per game. Though most of the Dukes’ scoring comes from the guard positions, Cooper-Williams could make a difference on the boards against Stephanie Jones and Shakira Austin. She was one of 20 centers named to the Lisa Leslie Award watch list prior to this season, which included Austin.

Strength

Rebounding. James Madison is averaging 49.5 rebounds per game with a margin of plus-16 through two games this season, but those numbers likely are more indicative of the level of competition it faced in Longwood and Villanova.

With just two players at 6’2 and nobody taller, the Dukes should give Maryland a chance to bounce back after being outrebounded 54-38 by South Carolina on Sunday.

Weakness

Three-point shooting. The Dukes come into Wednesday’s game making just 28.3 percent of their shots from long range, going 13-of-46 through two games. Jefferson leads the team at 3-of-7 (42.9 percent), but small sample sizes contribute to the outlier. Maryland has done well defending the three ball this season, holding opponents to just 22.2 percent.

Three things to watch

1. Can the Terps bounce back from a poor shooting performance? After opening the season by shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 48 percent from deep, Maryland came out and shot a woeful 31.4 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from three against South Carolina. Sharpshooting guard Taylor Mikesell went scoreless for the first time in her college career, missing all four shots from long-range.

“Short-term memory loss” will be the key to turning things around, Mikesell said. “I think that’s the best way to put it. You miss some shots, but the next ones are going to go in. That’s how I think about it.”

2. Will Ashley Owusu continue her growth? Owusu led the Terps with 17 points in 37 minutes of play against South Carolina. Through two games, she has taken control of the point guard position and is averaging 17.5 points, six assists and five rebounds per contest.

“She’s super talented,” Frese said after Sunday’s loss. “I thought [South Carolina] did a great of defending her, but you didn’t get to see the full package of what she’s capable of. It’s exciting to think of her coming in there at the point and the plays that she can make.”

3. What will the Terps’ mindset be after such a deflating loss? The loss against South Carolina was especially tough because Maryland was never able to take a lead or even draw within one possession as the game wound to a close. The Terps were back together Monday watching film and practiced with noise distractions Tuesday to help them prepare for this road test and to reset.

“I expect us to give the best shot that we have,” Austin said. “We should be making a statement off this South Carolina game. We just have a lot more to prove now, especially off of that.”