No. 7 Maryland women’s basketball has been one of the hottest teams in the nation across the last few weeks — riding a 12-game win streak as the final two regular season games approach
With five days between their last contest — a win over Wisconsin — and final home game against the Purdue Boilermakers, the Terps took advantage of the extra rest to try and reset ahead of what is to come in March.
“[The break was] phenomenal,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “You’re talking about an 18-game conference schedule and you’re only playing nine [players]. So it couldn’t have come at a better time for us.”
Purdue stands as a team that beats teams at the bottom of the conference, but has not tested the top teams in the Big Ten.
This is a game Maryland knows it should win, but no games can be taken lightly, as a number of top-10 women’s teams suffered defeats this past weekend.
Frese mentioned she planned to use those recent stumbles by ranked teams as a motivator in film on Monday ahead of this matchup.
“I’d rather learn from other peoples’ mistakes than your own,” Frese said.
Tipoff between Maryland and Purdue is set for 8 p.m. Tuesday and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.
Purdue Boilermakers (17-11, 8-8)
Head coach Sharon Versyp is a Purdue legend who is in her 14th season at the helm of the Boilermaker program. She holds a 293-173 record at Purdue and has had just two losing seasons, while leading the program to four Big Ten tournament titles and two Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Players to know
Senior forward Ae’Rianna Harris (No. 32) is one of the leaders of this Boilermaker team and is the dominant force inside. She averages 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while also having registered 77 blocks this season — all marks which lead the team.
Senior guard Dominique Oden (No. 11) is the other senior leader for Purdue, providing a veteran presence in the backcourt. She leads the team in starts — starting in all 28 games this season — and has averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. She also leads the Boilermakers with 38 steals on the season.
Junior guard Karissa McLaughlin (No. 1) lends a hand as the other veteran in the backcourt, starting in 26 games this season. The 2017 Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year is averaging 12.8 points per game this season coming off being named to the First Team All-Big Ten in her sophomore season. McLaughlin leads the team with 2.3 three-pointers made per contest as well.
Defense. Purdue is a team that averages just 65.1 points per game, but generally does well to keep opponents down at a similar low-scoring level. Opponents average 62.4 points per game against the Boilermakers, who are generally are able to stay away from big losses.
Turnovers. The Boilermakers do struggle on the offensive end with completing plays of their own, turning the ball over 16.3 times per game. They also only force 13.7 turnovers by opposing teams — making it hard to counter their own struggles.
Three things to watch
1. How will Frese use her bench? Maryland has a pretty established six-person core rotation, but the use of Diamond Miller, Faith Masonius and Sara Vujacic will be important to watch down the stretch of this season. Being able to put in meaningful minutes to allow the core six to rest will pay dividends in March.
“Huge,” was how Frese described the importance of her bench rotation in this final stretch.
“Any time you’re fortunate enough to advance to the Big Ten tournament and you play two or three games back-to-back and on your legs, you can fall into some foul trouble through the fatigue,” she said. “So I always say the regular season is built and that’s its own schedule, but I think your depth is what matters when you get into the Big Ten tournament.”
2. Will Maryland capitalize on its height advantage? Purdue has six players that stand at 6-feet tall or higher, but Harris is the only one of those players who garners significant time on the floor. The Terps have been flaunting Stephanie Jones and Shakira Austin from the opening tip during this 12-game win streak, and a strong early effort from the pair could play a big role.
“We like to trap more,” senior Blair Watson said. “To get those traps to where they can’t see over our hands and they can’t just feed it into their post player.”
3. Can the Terps keep rolling down the stretch? Maryland and Northwestern are tied atop the Big Ten standings with 14-2 records in conference play with two games remaining. The Terps have the easier closing stretch with Purdue at home on Tuesday then Minnesota on the road, while Northwestern travels to face fifth-place Ohio State Tuesday and closes at home against Illinois.
“Just the same mentality we always have,” senior Kaila Charles said. “Just making sure that we play hard for 40 [minutes], play hard for each other and have fun. We can’t take these two teams lightly. Everybody wants to beat us, one, and we know this league has been so competitive all year and we just know everybody will give us their best.”