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No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball vs Minnesota preview

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The Terps face three road games in their next four matchups.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball (9-1) will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Thursday as the Terps hunt to keep their eight-game win streak going.

Maryland managed to easily roll past Purdue in its last game on Jan. 10, defeating the Boilermakers 83-46 in a blowout win to improve to a perfect 5-0 record in Big Ten play.

“I can’t say enough for the discipline on our team and all the credit to the girls, you know, they’ve kept their bubble extremely tight,” Frese said. “Luckily they love each other, they spend a ton of time together, at the same point they’re making it look easy — but it’s not easy.”

The high-flying Terps are 3-0 on the road this season and have scored at least 90 points in each of those wins. They are second in the nation with an average 94.1 points per game on the season.

Last time Maryland traveled to Minnesota, the Terps dismantled the Golden Gophers in a dominant 99-44 win on March 1, 2020. This year, it seems as though both teams are headed in opposite directions as Maryland vies for its 10th win on the year.

Thursday’s game between these two Big Ten squads will tip-off on Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. Let’s take a look at what Maryland is up against in Minnesota.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-6, 1-5 Big Ten)

2019-20 record: 16-15 (5-13 Big Ten)

Head coach Lindsay Whalen has been the head coach at Minnesota since April 2018. In her two seasons at the helm of the Golden Gophers prior to the 2020-21 season, she led Minnesota to a 37-26 record, winning at a 58.7% clip. Minnesota found success last year, reaching a win streak of 11 straight games last year at one point, but is off to a rough start this season.

In the 2020 Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota defeated the likes of Penn State, but then fell to Ohio State in the next round to close out its season. In 2020-21, season for Whalen and the Golden Gophers have won just one of their past six games. Now they’ll face the Terps in an attempt to pull off a major upset at home.

Players to know

Jasmine Powell, sophomore guard, 5’6, No. 4 — Powell has started eight games for Minnesota and has been the bonafide offensive threat for the team. The sophomore averages a team-high 16.8 points per game to go along with 5.0 rebounds per contest as well.

Powell is also the team’s most effective playmaker on the floor and will surely look to spread the ball around against Maryland’s stingy defense. She averages 5.7 assists per game and has 30 more assists on the season than the next best Golden Gopher on the roster. Powell averages 35 minutes per game for Minnesota and will surely be a constant factor on the floor.

Kadi Sissoko, redshirt sophomore forward, 6’2, No. 30 — Sissoko may not be the tallest player on Minnesota’s roster, but she surely makes it seem like she is. The forward will look to be a problem for Maryland primarily in the rebounding game, where she averages a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per game. Sissoko has 31 offensive rebounds in the eight games she has played in this season, which is good enough for an average of nearly four offensive boards per game.

Sissoko is also second on the team in points per game with 13.0 and she shoots about 38% from the field. Look for her to be doing the dirty work in the paint against the Terps as she attempts to outwork this tall Maryland roster.

Gadiva Hubbard, redshirt senior guard, 5’9, No. 34 — Hubbard may not lead the team in certain statistics, but she definitely knows how to fill up the stat sheet on a consistent basis. The redshirt senior averages the third most minutes played on the team and is third on the team in points per game with 10.9.

She will look to make an impact on both ends of the floor, as she is active defensively and a fairly efficient offensive piece. Hubbard is second on the Golden Gophers in steals on the season and has the second best field goal percentage on the team. Hubbard is just another all-around factor on Minnesota that the Terps will need to watch out for come Thursday.

Strength

Rebounding. For a team that has just two wins through eight games, it’s impressive that Minnesota nearly has a positive rebounding margin (-0.9). Though the team has struggled at times on the defensive end, it averages 14.0 offensive rebounds per contest, which is fourth in the Big Ten. The Golden Gophers have plenty of players that are capable of corralling missed shots off of the rim and they have five players that average over four rebounds per game. The rebounding game will need to fall in Minnesota’s favor if it wants any chance to pull off the upset.

Weakness

Stopping their opponent’s offense. The source of Minnesota’s struggles this season can be directly found in its defensive game. The Golden Gophers have let up over 80 points per game to their opponents this season, allowing teams to shoot 47.6% from the field. That certainly won’t be a recipe for success against a very potent Maryland offense. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Terps pour it on offensively against the Golden Gophers due to Minnesota’s inability to get stops on defense.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland continue its high scoring tendencies on the road? Maryland is 3-0 on the road in the regular season and has taken care of its opponents due to its stellar offensive efficiency. The Terps average 93.3 points per game on the road and will look to take advantage of Minnesota’s porous defense.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Katie Benzan said. “We have so many great pieces and so many threats that it doesn’t matter, as coach said, we don’t care who scores as long as Maryland scores, so we share the ball really well. It’s just been a lot of fun.”

In those three road wins, Ashley Owusu has averaged 23 points and Diamond Miller has averaged nearly 17. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Maryland’s most powerful duo succeed on the offensive end on the road in Minnesota.

2. How much time will Alaysia Styles see on the floor? After collecting six points on 60% shooting in her first real minutes as a Terp against Purdue, fans had the chance to see exactly what Alaysia Styles brings to the floor for Maryland after transferring from California. Styles is gaining more opportunities on the floor and should be getting even more looks after redshirt junior guard Channise Lewis went down with a torn ACL and meniscus, which Frese confirmed Wednesday.

“I felt like Channise was coming into form and her best shape and all the injuries that she’s had throughout her entire career, but like we’ve been here for Angel, we’ll be here for Channise every step of the way,” Frese said.

Looking back at Styles, the 6-foot-3 forward looked like she fit within Maryland’s scheme nicely, and she was aggressive on both ends of the floor. It’ll be interesting to see if her positive impact against Purdue will translate to more time on the court come Thursday.

3. Will the Terps continue their run of Big Ten dominance? Under Frese, Maryland has been a dominant force in the Big Ten. In matchups against Big Ten opponents, the Terps are 98-6 when scoring at least 70 points and have 22 straight wins. Maryland has simply continued this dominant trend this season has well.

Maryland has taken down five Big Ten squads already with three of those wins coming on the road. The Terps are red hot against teams in their conference and it seems as though that trend is bound to hold true against a weaker Minnesota team.