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Maryland women’s basketball vs. Michigan Big Ten semifinals preview

The top-seeded Terps prepare to face a streaking, but tired, Wolverines squad.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Maryland at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After being selected as the favorites to win the Big Ten conference, Maryland women’s basketball delivered on those expectations in the regular season. A 15-3 conference record was enough to take first place and earn the Terrapins a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. With that top spot, they received a double bye and the first game on Quarterfinals Friday.

Against a Michigan State team to whom they had already lost this season, the Terps steamrolled in the second half to a 71-55 blowout victory to advance to the Big Ten semifinals.

Now, Maryland will face the Wolverines as it hopes to sweep the state of Michigan in the Big Ten tournament. They are coming off a double-overtime thriller of a win against Wisconsin, which took place right after the Terrapins’ win.

Game information

Saturday, March 9, 5 p.m. ET, Bankers Life Field House, Indianapolis

TV: Big Ten Network

Streaming: BTN2Go, FOX Sports App

How did they get here?

No. 1-seed Maryland (27-3, 15-3 Big Ten)

After getting through the nonconference slate with an undefeated 11-0 record, the Terps 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.

Maryland got a double bye in the Big Ten tournament, and it didn’t have to play its first action until Friday afternoon. And despite facing a team it lost to by 17 points earlier in the season, the Terrapins dominated. Led by Kaila Charles’ 21 points—including 14 in the third quarter—they jumped out to a 25-point lead late in the game and eventually won 71-55.

No. 4-seed Michigan (19-10, 9-9 Big Ten)

Michigan started the conference slate slowly, winning just three of its first nine outings and being lumped into the bottom of the conference standings halfway through Big Ten play. But once the calendar flipped to February, the Wolverines seemed to become a brand-new team. They immediately rattled off eight wins in the next nine games, including a victory over then-No. 13 Iowa.

As the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament, Michigan was awarded a double bye. Like Maryland, it didn’t have to play its first game until Friday, but unlike the top seed in the field, the Wolverines didn’t have an easy first game. No. 13-seed Wisconsin took them to the limit, forcing a second overtime period in which Michigan finally pulled away in the final two minutes.

What happened last time

Jan. 12 — Maryland 83, Michigan 69

Maryland had lost to Rutgers two weeks prior, and it was ready to show its dominance and rectify that earlier defeat. The Terrapins entered the game coming off an 18-point drubbing of Nebraska, and that momentum carried into the Xfinity Center on a Saturday afternoon.

While Michigan actually jumped out to a seven-point lead after the first quarter, the Terps fought back to pull ahead by halftime, and a 30-point fourth quarter saw them put Michigan away at the perfect time. It was an ensemble act for Maryland, as five players scored at least 12 points, led by Taylor Mikesell’s 17.

The Wolverines matched the Terrapins through three quarters, only trailing by one entering the final period. But they didn’t have enough in the tank to stay with Maryland late. Michigan was led offensively by star forward Hallie Thome, who scored 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting with 10 rebounds.

Three things to watch

1. Does fatigue play a factor? As the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament, Maryland not only had the benefit of a double bye, it got to play in the first quarterfinal game on Friday. The Terrapins had a large lead late, allowing them to take it easy with 27 hours between games. Michigan, on the other hand, not only has just 24 hours to recover, but it just played in a double-overtime grind of a game that saw Thome play 37 minutes.

2. Who wins the battle of the freshmen? Taylor Mikesell was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year as voted on by the coaches, and Shakira Austin was a member alongside her on the All-Freshman Team. The two have combined for 22 points, 13.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Naz Hillmon, meanwhile, won the media’s Freshman of the Year after scoring 13.1 points and adding 6.9 rebounds per game. Combined, these two teams have three of five all-freshman team members.

3. Can Kaila Charles dominate again? To put it mildly, Charles’ start to the Big Ten tournament was disastrous. She was 1-of-8 shooting with just five points very early in the third quarter, but then she turned it on and put the game to bed. She made five of her final six field goals and 9-of-12 free throws to finish with 21 points. If she can start faster this time around, Michigan will be in real trouble.