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No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball vs Wagner preview

The Terps open the 2019-20 season against a team that won 10 games last year.

Stephanie Jones Maryland women’s basketball Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

After a long offseason littered with potential national championship chatter, the 2019-20 Maryland women’s basketball season is finally here.

After the last two seasons have seen Brenda Frese’s squad fail to advance past the second round of the NCAA tournament, the No. 4 Terps are primed this season to live up the billing of being a top-5 team in the nation.

And in two exhibition games, Maryland has mostly looked the part. It dispatched California University of Pennsylvania 109-67, while lighting up Lincoln University (PA) to the tune of a 115-52 drubbing in which sophomore forward Shakira Austin scored 21 points.

The Terps’ more meaningful stretch of the schedule doesn’t begin until Sunday, when they face No. 8 South Carolina in College Park, but Wagner will at least be the toughest opponent this new group has faced so far this season.

Tip-off is set for 11 a.m., though the game will only be available on BTN+ ($).

Wagner Seahawks (0-0)

2018-19 record: 10-20 (8-10 NEC)

Head coach Heather Jacobs enters her fourth of season at helm for the Seahawks this season, with the team steadily improving under her guidance. Last year, she managed to double Wagner’s Northeast Conference (NEC) win total while leading the team to its first NEC postseason appearance in almost five years. There’s still plenty of work for Jacobs to do before Wagner is a serious threat again, but she at least appears to have the program trending in the right direction.

Players to Know

Sophomore forward Emilija Krista Grava (No. 24) likely inherits the role of the Jacobs’ leading offensive threat after the team’s leading scorer from last season opted to transfer to Southeastern University. A native of Latvia, Krista Grava averaged 10.1 points and 5.4 per game her freshman season, earning her a spot on the NEC All-Rookie Team.

Redshirt senior guard Janelle Mullen (No. 44) was one of just three Seahawks to average double figures in points, averaging 10 points per game while shooting 41.6 percent from the field. She was also one of the team’s better scorers from outside, shooting 38 percent from three point range on 100 attempts.

Junior guard/forward Khaleah Edwards (No. 22) is another one of the team’s better outside shooters, combining with Mullen to create a formidable threat from deep. In 26 starts last season, Edwards made 58 of her 160 attempts from beyond the three point line, good for a 36.3 percent clip from that distance.

Strength

Three point shooting. Led in large part by the performances by Mullen and Edwards, the Seahawks excelled at connecting from long range last season, and should be able to do so again this season. With four different players shooting above 30 percent from three last 2018-19, the Seahawks are capable of lighting teams up from beyond the arc.

Weakness

Turnovers. The Seahawks struggled to take care of the ball for much of last season, turning the ball over almost 18 times per contest in 2018-19. That mark put them tied for 282nd in Division I in turnover margin at -2.33, as well as 229th in assist-turnover ratio.

Three Things to Watch

1. Will Kaila Charles start her senior season with a bang? After receiving AP Preseason All-American and Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, the hype train surrounding Charles has grown more and more as the outset of the new Terps season grows closer.

The senior guard can kick off her final season with Maryland on a positive note, with a strong performance serving as a strong indication of what’s to come this season.

2. How much will Shakira Austin’s success translate? Austin was tabbed by Frese as one of the most improved players on the team entering this season, citing her improved consistency each time she’s stepped on the court since the end of last season. Such showed in Austin’s 21-point performance against Lincoln, but whether that continues against improved competition will be interesting to watch.

3. Can Maryland win its 11th straight season opener? Since Brenda Frese began coaching at Maryland 2002, the Terps have began 16 of her 17 seasons 1-0. A win on Tuesday would mark the 11th straight season with a season-opening victory, the longest streak of consecutive season opening victories the Terps have experienced under Frese.