After avenging its Jan. 9 loss to Iowa on the road with a massive victory at home, No. 10 Maryland women’s basketball is back on the road to face Penn State Sunday afternoon.
The Terps’ win streak has reached double-digits now with their win last Thursday night, improving to 21-4 on the season while taking hold of sole possession of first place in the conference.
Five of Maryland’s last six wins have come against teams ranked in the upper half of the conference, but Sunday’s contest sees the Terps face off against the worst team in the Big Ten in the Nittany Lions (1-13 in conference play).
Maryland comes into the game with the opportunity to even up the all-time series between the two programs, currently trailing the Nittany Lions with 14 wins compared to 15 losses.
They’ve yet to lose to Penn State since joining the Big Ten as well, winning seven in a row against the Lions since 2015.
The game tips off at 2 p.m. ET and will be streamed on BTN Plus.
Penn State Nittany Lions (7-18, 1-13 Big Ten)
Head coach Carolyn Kieger has had a rough go of it in her first season with the program, struggling to keep Penn State above water after being named a semifinalist for 2019 Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year with Marquette a year prior. The team’s recent stretch of 10 straight losses marked a new low for the 2019-20 Lions, but given a few years to build, Kieger could return the Penn State women’s basketball program to its former glory.
Players to Know
Junior guard Kamaria McDaniel (No. 5), although leading the bottom feeders in the Big Ten this season, is actually in the middle of the best season of her career. Averaging 19.4 points per game, she leads the Big Ten in scoring at this point of the season. Part of the reason why is she has almost 150 more field goal attempts than the next highest player on Penn State, contributing to just a 39.1 percent field goal percentage.
Senior guard Siyeh Frazier (No. 4), despite riding in McDaniel’s wake for much of this season, has carved out a decent role for herself this year. She’s averaging double-digits in points with 12.4 per contest and is second on the team in rebounds with 133 on the season. The Lions are a guard-heavy bunch led by their two upperclassmen, so slowing them down starts with stopping McDaniel and Frazier.
Junior forward Alisia Smith (No. 1) is Penn State’s leading interior presence, starting in 23 games this year after a season-ending injury cut her sophomore season short in 2018-19. Her scoring average has taken a dip under Kieger, falling to just 6.7 points per game despite still leading the team in rebounds per game with 5.4.
Free-throw shooting. There aren’t many stat categories that this year’s Nittany Lions team has managed to do overwhelmingly well in, but one has certainly been their free throw shooting. As a team, they’ve shot 73.5 percent from the charity stripe, which is 1) 66th in Division I this season, and 2) Better than the Terps have done at the line this season. They’ve also taken 475 free throws, a mark that ranks 41st in the country and third in the Big Ten.
Scoring defense. To put it simply, the Lions have been helpless defensively this season. They turn it over more often than they force turnovers, average just over three blocks per game and allow their opponents to shoot an average of over 42 percent from the field. All of that has culminated in a poor scoring defense for Penn State, allowing 72.6 points per game to rank 321st in Division I in that category.
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Maryland avoid a trap game? Having aced their tests against the likes of Northwestern and Iowa over the last two weeks, Sunday’s road contest sets up for the kind of game where the Terps take their foot off the gas. Penn State is an objectively a bad team this season, but overlooking it could undo a lot of the work they’ve done over the last few weeks. Maryland needs to get out to a strong start on Sunday and take Penn State out of the game as quickly as possible.
2. Will Ashley Owusu continue to perform? The freshman phenom has found her groove recently in her role coming off the bench, averaging 18 points and eight assists over the last four games. Averaging almost 34 minutes per game in those contests as well, Owusu has become not just a spark plug off the bench, but ka ey contributor to wins for the Terps.
3. Can Blair Watson build on her DPOY case? Watson’s impact on the defensive end for the Terps this season can’t be understated, but as the season nears an end and award season approaches, she’ll need to continue to defend at a high level. Maryland’s last win over Iowa saw her come away with five steals, giving her 71 on the season to put her 15th in the country in that category and third among Power 5 teams.
Now facing a Penn State team that turns it over 18.8 times per game, Sunday’s game figures to be a strong opportunity to continue to add to that total and make her case for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.