No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball (16-4, 7-2) ascended in the AP Poll for the first time in the new year on the heels of a big home win against No. 22 Northwestern on Jan. 26.
Similarly to last time they faced the Wildcats, the Terps will now have to shift their focus to the Ohio State Buckeyes (11-8, 4-4) — this time in a road matchup.
“It was a tough win here,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “They’re very talented. Ohio State and us have had many battles over the years. It’s considered a big rivalry I think amongst both.”
The Terps used their home matchup against the Buckeyes as a confidence booster after a tough conference loss, but are now looking to continue elevating their game as the postseason looms.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday and will be broadcasted on BTN ahead of the Maryland men’s matchup vs Iowa.
What happened last time
Coming off a New years Eve loss to Northwestern, the Terps returned home to face Ohio State and were eager to get back to form.
After 20 minutes of play, however, Maryland trailed 42-35 and had its back up against the unfamiliar wall of potentially losing two conference games in a row.
The Terps managed to come out and win the third quarter by an 18-9 margin, giving the team a lead that it held on to for the final period of play en route to a 72-62 victory.
Kaila Charles led all scorers with a season-high 28 points and was the only Terp in double figures.
What’s happened since
Ohio State has had an up-and-down Big Ten run, which continued after falling to the Terps in College Park. The Buckeyes have played five conference games since these teams faced off last and have a 3-2 record — winning all three home games.
Interestingly, Ohio State has not lost a home game since Nov. 24 when UConn took down the Buckeyes 73-62. Overall, Ohio State has a 6-2 record at Value City Arena this season.
Maryland, despite hoping to bounce back after defeating the Buckeyes, lost to Iowa in its ensuing game. But the team found its turning point on that road trip.
The Terps have won five games in a row since falling to the Hawkeyes and will have a chance to move into a tie at first place in the conference standings with a win — though Iowa would have to lose on the road to Penn State Thursday to make that a reality.
Three things to watch
1. How will the Terps shape up inside? Post play has been a major positive for Maryland this season, but an ankle injury suffered by Shakira Austin Sunday left the team in a vulnerable place.
Despite the scare, Austin has been participating in practice, per Frese, and should play against Ohio State — barring any unforeseen circumstances. Maryland has averaged 38.44 points in the paint per game during Big Ten play and will look to continue pushing the ball inside.
2. Will Maryland remain together as a team? The Terps struggled to move as a unit and remain connected against the Buckeyes, which gave Ohio State more chance to hang around and force a competitive game for longer than the 10-point win may show.
“I feel like we need to stay connected because at times there were a lot of lapses,” senior Blair Watson said. “We kind of went over that in film and it was kind of tied coming into the fourth quarter stretch and we kind of want to make sure that we aren’t in a close game with them because they are at home and we are away.”
3. Can the Terps continue carrying their momentum? Maryland has won five straight games after a bumpy start to Big Ten play and will look to continue its positive streak.
“We’re just making a conscious effort to have fun,” senior Kaila Charles said. “We’re playing for each other. Just making sure we’re doing the three little things — the intangibles — and making sure that we leave it all on the court.”
The Terps will have eight regular season games remaining after the Ohio State matchup — four at home and four on the road — but the focus remains on the Buckeyes.
“I love where we’re at,” Frese said. “Obviously, we’re at halfway through the conference race and its the most competitive it’s been since we entered — which is great.”