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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Michigan State Big Ten tournament preview

The top-seeded Terps begin their postseason in the conference quarterfinal.

Maryland women’s basketball Shakira Austin vs. Georgia Tech Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

For the fourth time in five years, Maryland women’s basketball is ready to begin the Big Ten tournament as the top seed in the field.

Since joining the conference, the Terrapins have been the best program by far, winning four regular-season titles in five tries and three of four conference tournaments (Ohio State claims the other, beating Maryland in the title game last season).

As the No. 1 seed, the Terps were granted the luxury of a double bye, giving them an extra day’s rest over their opponent, No. 9 Michigan State, which just defeated No. 8 Northwestern 68-52 in the matinee on Thursday.

Game information

Friday, March 8, noon ET, Bankers Life Field House, Indianapolis

TV: Big Ten Network

Streaming: BTN2Go, FOX Sports App

How did they get here?

No. 1-seed Maryland (26-3, 15-3 Big Ten)

The Terrapins entered the season as the favorites to win the Big Ten, and that’s exactly what they did. After getting through the nonconference slate with an undefeated 11-0 record, they saw teams like Rutgers, Michigan State and Iowa get the best of them. However, Maryland took care of business in the rest of the conference slate, staving off a threatening Hawkeyes team late in the year to finish at the top of the standings without any company.

No. 9-seed Michigan State (19-10, 9-9 Big Ten)

The Spartans looked like one of the best teams in the country to start the season. Their only nonconference loss was to North Carolina State, now the No. 7 overall seed in the prospective NCAA Tournament field, and the Spartans were one of just three teams to defeat Oregon, now No. 5 overall. But as the Big Ten season wore on, Michigan State failed to keep up with its counterparts, dropping four of six to finish the regular season.

As the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten tournament, the Spartans were given a first-round bye, but they played in the first game of the second round for the right to face Maryland. There, they bested No. 8 Northwestern thanks to the performances of Shay Colley, Jenna Allen, Nia Clouden and Taryn McCutcheon, who all scored in double figures in the victory.

What happened last time

Jan. 17 — Michigan State 77, Maryland 60

Back in mid-January, the then-No. 9 Terrapins traveled to East Lansing on a three-game winning streak following a New Year’s Eve loss to Rutgers. They were riding high, earning two straight blowout victories over Nebraska and Michigan.

But Maryland was in store for a rude awakening, as the then-No. 17 Spartans were hungry for a win following a stretch in which they lost three out of four games. Led by Jenna Allen’s 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting (2-of-5 from deep), Michigan State jumped out to a 10-point lead after the first quarter and never looked back.

While the Terps were able to cut the deficit to just three points at halftime, they were outscored by 14 points in the second half and were completely outclassed. Brianna Fraser turned in her best performance of the season by a wide margin, scoring 22 points to lead the team. But Maryland’s best players—Kaila Charles, Taylor Mikesell and Stephanie Jones—combined for just 24 points and failed to step up in big spots.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland avoid a slow start? In the first meeting between these teams, Maryland started the first quarter shooting 33.3 percent and scored just 15 points. Michigan State, on the other hand, made 64.3 percent of its field goals and scored 25. Yes, the Terrapins have the double bye, but that extended time off could lead to a tough time getting into a groove early.

2. Will Jenna Allen dominate again? The senior center averages 12.5 points this season, serving as a great complement to First Team All-Big Ten guard Shay Colley. But against Maryland, Allen tallied 16 points, scoring with ease both in the post and beyond the arc. She also added four rebounds and four assists to put together an all-around effort. If Maryland wants to win, it’ll need to contain Allen and control the paint.

3. Can Brianna Fraser suit up? Since going down three minutes into the game against Minnesota on Feb. 21, the senior forward has not played. And in that time, Maryland has failed to dominate any of its opponents, often appearing vulnerable in the post. While her 7.8 points per game rank sixth on the team, Fraser has been critical on both sides of the court and has been an important leader. She practiced on Wednesday, and there’s currently no update on her status for Thursday other than the day-to-day tag she’s had for the past couple weeks.