No. 14 Maryland women’s basketball will play against Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey, Monday at 2 p.m. This matchup will be the first Big Ten game for the Terps.
The Terps haven’t played since their Dec. 3 home opener against Towson. In that game, Maryland came out on top, 112-78, the second consecutive game the Terps hit the 100 point milestone. Sophomore guards Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu had career-high games with 28 and 25 points, respectively.
Maryland also set a Big Ten Conference record for the highest number of three-point shots made in a game with 21 successful from deep. Senior guard Katie Benzan hit six of those threes, totaling 21 points.
However, the last two scheduled matchups for the Terps against Coppin State and Mount St. Mary’s were canceled due to positive coronavirus tests in the opposing teams’ program.
Maryland last played Rutgers last year in College Park. The Terps won that matchup, 79-50. Overall against the Scarlet Knights, Maryland is 27-12, and since joining the Big Ten in 2014, the Terps have won eight of nine meetings.
“We are looking forward to another intense matchup with them,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “You know, a lot of defense and rebounding and scoring.”
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
2019-20 record: 22-9 (11-7 Big Ten)
Head coach C. Vivian Stringer is in her 26th season as the leader of the Scarlet Knights after serving as a head coach and an assistant coach at a number of colleges. In her first 25 seasons coaching Rutgers, Stringer has amassed a 521-286 record.
Stringer has led the team to 17 NCAA Tournaments, two Final Four appearances and in 2014, a WNIT Championship title. During the 2018-2019 season, Stringer hit 1,000 career wins as a coach.
Rutgers started off this season by winning its first two games over Monmouth and Wisconsin. Against Monmouth, the Scarlet Knights held the Hawks to just 38 points.
Players to know
Arella Guirantes, redshirt senior guard, 5’11, No. 24 - Guirantes recorded 16 points and nine boards in the first game of the season against Monmouth. She did not let up against Wisconsin, scoring a game-high 22 points and marking the 19th time in her career Guirantes scored over 20 points in a game. Before transferring to Rutgers, Guirantes played at Texas Tech and averaged 9.9 points per game.
Tekia Mack, senior forward, 6’1, No. 31 - Mack finished the first game against Monmouth with a career-high six steals, six boards and a block. In the matchup against Wisconsin, Mack was one of four players to hit double-digit points and had five steals. Mack was named to the Big Ten-All Defensive Team for the 2019-2020 season. In her junior year, the Chicago native led the team in rebounds and steals.
Diamond Johnson, freshman guard, 5’5, No. 3 - Johnson was the No. 6 overall recruit according to ESPN. In her collegiate debut against Monmouth, the freshman had 15 points as she went 5-of-6 shooting and 3-of-4 from the three. Against Wisconsin, Johnson had a career-high 17 points and six rebounds. She is second on the team in scoring with 32 points only behind Guirantes and leads the team in three-point field goals.
Forced turnovers. Rutgers has scored 34.5 points off turnovers in the first two games of the season. Against Wisconsin, the Scarlet Knights forced 22 steals and the team has a turnover margin of +17. Rutgers averages 28.5 turnovers forced per game while in that same category, Maryland averages 12.3.
Rebounds. Despite holding their first two opponents below their scoring average, Rutgers’ rebound margin is -3.5, while the Terps is +7.8. Through their first two games, Rutgers has 63 rebounds while their opponents have 70. The Terps out-rebounded their opponents in the first four games 179-148.
“With the different presses that [Rutgers] runs, we’re going to have to really value the basketball,” said Frese. “For us, when we get opportunities at the basket, we shoot well. So... we’ve got to be able to have those opportunities and we’ve got to be able to rebound.”
Three things to watch
1. Will the Terps come out strong in conference play? Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Maryland has not lost a conference opener. As the Terps look to win their seventh straight Big Ten opener, they are coming off two consecutive games with over 100 points and setting a Big Ten record for made three-pointers. Maryland last recorded 100 points or more in three consecutive games during the 2017-2018 season. The Terps did this with wins against two non-conference opponents and a Big Ten matchup: Loyola, Coppin State and Illinois. The Terps can achieve the same pattern again with a win against Rutgers.
“We still have one plan on our mind and that’s to go to a championship. so that that’s our motivation, every day, we step on the court,” said Miller.
2. How will Maryland’s small roster adapt in their first matchup without Angel Reese? Although they are small in roster size, the Terps have already proven they can adapt to change quickly when freshman forward Angel Reese left the game against Towson less than three minutes in with a right foot injury. Even though she had successful surgery on Thursday, Maryland will still have to adjust to playing without the Baltimore native until the end of February.
With the absences of Reese and redshirt freshman guard Zoe Young, the Terps have just eight active players. Graduate transfer forward Alaysia Styles will join the roster later this year but until then, the Terps must adapt, and excel, with an eight-person rotation. Reese’s absence will lead to new lineups which mean redshirt sophomore guard Mimi Collins and sophomore forward Faith Masonius are ready to help fill that void.
“No one’s gonna be able to replace Angel and have to do it by themselves,” Frese said. “It’s really by committee, asking every player to step up and add two more points, add one more rebound to be able to help us with what she was able to give to the team.”
3. After cancelations, will the momentum still be there? When the Terps step on the court, it will have been 11 days since their last game. Maryland was scheduled to play Coppin State on Dec. 5 and Mount St. Mary’s on Dec. 8 however both games were canceled due to positive coronavirus tests in the opposing programs.
“The most important thing after this 10-day break was just keeping the energy and focus and practice...but coming back every single day and just getting 1% better every day so we can just maintain an uprise in the season,” said Masonius.
Although Maryland added James Madison University on the schedule for Dec. 19, they did not replace the two games last week.