No. 20 Maryland women’s basketball returns home Sunday afternoon to face off with No. 22 Northwestern as the Terps look to continue building momentum.
Maryland took down Illinois on the road, 79-60, last time out, while Northwestern throttled Michigan State on the road for a 28-point victory. Each team comes into this matchup on at least a four-game win streak, but only one can carry the torch on.
A win for the Terps on Sunday, and a loss by Iowa later in the afternoon, would boost the Maryland up to a tie for first place in the Big Ten, alongside the Wildcats and Hawkeyes.
Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday and can be seen on BTN+.
What happened last time
Northwestern got a huge boost to its season on New Years Eve, throttling then-No. 12 Maryland, 81-58, at home.
The Wildcats came out of the gates fast — winning the first quarter 18-6 — and the Terps were simply never able to catch up.
Blair Watson, Kaila Charles and Stephanie Jones were the lone double figure scorers for Maryland with a combined 37 points, while Lindsey Pulliam and Veronica Burton scored a combined 47 and had support from two other double-digit scorers.
Despite winning the battles on the boards 42-29, Maryland coughed up the ball 24 times and forced just 13 turnovers on the evening.
What has happened since
The loss to Northwestern sort of shook Maryland up, as the start of Big Ten play brought unfamiliar territory.
The Terps went on to defeat Ohio State, but then lost to Iowa just two games after the loss to Northwestern. Maryland has put together four wins in a row, but is still looking for consistency.
For the Wildcats, the win over Maryland helped propel them to a first-place run in Big Ten play, including a 7-1 conference record thus far.
A stretch of close games between Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana has been followed by dominations of Penn State and Michigan State — proving that the Wildcats are for real.
Three things to watch
1. Can the Terps reverse the turnover battle? Northwestern jumped out in front early last time around and was able to keep its distance due to Maryland turning the ball over.
Brenda Frese and her team have been able to regain positive momentum on the defensive side of the ball, forcing 23 turnovers by Illinois on Thursday and scoring 24 points off those turnovers.
2. Will Maryland keep the Wildcats away from the line? Another key to Northwestern’s New Years Eve upset was shooting 31-of-38 from the free throw line — including 24 makes combined between Pulliam and Burton.
The Terps were called for 26 fouls and had four calls each on Charles, Watson and Shakira Austin — who all have major impacts on the defensive side of the ball. Staying out of foul trouble and not allowing easy points will be critical to closing the gap.
3. Will this be a complete 40 minutes against a competitive team? Frese often talks about looking for a full 40-minute effort from her team, but has yet to see that in any game against meaningful opponents.
Sunday’s matchup provides a chance for the Terps to correct what went wrong on the final day of 2019 and get over the hurdle by taking down the first-place team in the Big Ten. A full effort from start to finish could propel Maryland back into its usual position of Big Ten dominance.