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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Northwestern preview

The No. 10 Terps are back home to play the Wildcats.

Maryland women’s basketball Taylor Mikesell vs. Georgia Tech Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

As the final month of the regular season is underway, Maryland women’s basketball is in an enviable position. For starters, the Terrapins have already racked up 20 wins and hold a No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press top 25, which would generally fall in line with a top-three seed in the NCAA Tournament.

And after five straight victories and a loss by Rutgers, the Terps now control their own destiny for a regular season Big Ten title. They currently share first place with the Scarlet Knights with 9-2 conference records, but the teams will play each other one more time in a game that will likely decide the title.

Before that matchup, Maryland has to continue its winning streak against Northwestern on Thursday night. The Terrapins have played three of their last four games on the road, but they’ll host the Wildcats for a conference showdown slated to tip off at 6:30 p.m. ET on BTN2Go.

Northwestern Wildcats (14-8, 7-4 Big Ten)

2017-18 record: 12-20, 4-12

Head coach Joe McKeown is in his 11th year in charge of the Wildcats, making the postseason in five seasons thus far. That includes a berth in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, the program’s first since 1997. McKeown has 684 career victories, most of those coming from his 19 seasons at George Washington.

Players to know

Lindsey Pulliam, sophomore, guard, 5’10, No. 10. Pulliam was one of the best newcomers in the conference last season, scoring 15 points per game. That earned her a spot on the Big Ten all-freshman team as well as an honorable mention position on the All-Big Ten team. Now in her second year with the program, she’s been even better. Pulliam is currently averaging 16.6 points, fourth in the conference, while playing 33 minutes per game.

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, senior, forward, 6’2, No. 14. After scarcely playing in her first two years with the Wildcats, Kunaiyi-Akpanah broke out in a big way last year. She was named to the All-Big Ten second team after averaging 11.3 points and 11.9 rebounds, and she also shot 54.5 percent from the floor. In her final year with the program, Kunaiyi-Akpanah has been great once again. She’s second on the team with 11.9 points, and her average of 11.3 rebounds currently ranks third in the conference.

Abi Scheid, junior, forward/center, 6’2, No. 44. A former four-sport athlete in high school, Scheid has made a big impact for Northwestern in the past two seasons. She was second on the team last season with 12 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Now as a junior, she is averaging 10.7 points and 5.4 boards.


Defense. Thanks to Pulliam on the perimeter and the aforementioned forwards inside, Northwestern’s defense has been stout all season long. The Wildcats have allowed opponents to score just 58.0 points per game, second only to Rutgers. Their opposition has shot the ball at a 36.1 percent clip, third in the Big Ten, and a 27.7 percent mark from three-point range, which ranks second.


Offense. As strong as the Wildcats have been defensively, they’ve struggled just as much on the offensive end. Shooting has been problematic thus far for Northwestern, as its field-goal percentage of .402 ranks 11th in the conference and a .302 three-point percentage places the team 12th. Combined, that’s led to a subpar 68.0 points-per-game average.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland keep it rolling? Following the surprising 17-point defeat at the hands of Michigan State on Jan. 17, the Terrapins have won five straight games. And while it hasn’t always been pretty, the margins of victory have been by an average of 15.4 points per game. Northwestern is tougher than the past couple opponents, but strong play for all 40 minutes will likely lead to another big win.

2. Does Northwestern score enough? Maryland has hit the 70-point plateau in all of its Big Ten wins and has averaged 74.6 points per game in conference play overall. The Wildcats, on the other hand, have scored an average of 64.5 points in 11 league games thus far. To hang around with Maryland, they’ll not only have to up their pace, they’ll also have to sink more of their shots.

3. Will Shakira Austin dominate again? After a stretch of play that saw her struggle, especially with efficiency, Austin played extremely well against Illinois on Monday. The freshman not only led the game with 17 points, she made six of her nine field goals and went 5-of-6 from the free throw line. Like the Illini, Northwestern doesn’t have a lot of size in its rotation. That could be the perfect recipe for Austin to control the paint once again.