No. 7 Maryland women’s basketball will take on Michigan State at Xfinity Center Thursday at 4 p.m. This will be the Terps’ first home game since their matchup against Purdue on Jan. 10.
Maryland is looking to bounce back quickly after falling to No. 14 Ohio State Monday night on the road, 88-86. In the matchup against Ohio State, Maryland was outrebounded 37-23 and allowed the Buckeyes to go on multiple runs including a 13-2 one in the fourth quarter. The loss ended Maryland’s Big Ten win streak of 24 games, and Thursday evening, against the Spartans, the team will look to start a new one.
This season has been all about offensive weapons for the Terps as their scoring offense ranks first in the nation averaging 92 points per game. Even in the loss against Ohio State, sophomore guard Ashley Owusu put up 33 points and had nine assists while senior guard Katie Benzan recorded 22 points. Benzan made seven successful threes, just one shy of tying the program record she set earlier this season.
“I was lucky enough that my shot was falling the last game, but just against Michigan State just playing a team game moving the ball and just reading what the defense gives me,” Benzan said. “If that’s threes, that’s threes. If I need to attack the rim, that’s attacking the rim. Or maybe it’s just finding my teammates.”
Maryland will look to find their offensive groove once again when they face Michigan State for a second time this season after missing 14 shots in the fourth quarter against Ohio State to improve their conference record to 8-1.
What happened last time
In early January, Maryland traveled to East Lansing, Michigan looking for its fourth conference win of the season after defeating Indiana, Rutgers and Penn State.
The Terps came out strong in the first half, shooting 53% from the field, which saved them when they went cold in the fourth quarter and Michigan State heated up to shoot 55.5% from the floor.
The Terps pulled out the win, 93-87, led by sophomore guard Ashley Owusu and senior forward Chloe Bibby, who hit 20 points each. Owusu also finished the game with 10 boards and six assists, while Bibby had five boards, two assists and three blocks. All five starters finished that game in double-digit scoring.
However, Maryland native and Angel Reese’s former high school teammate, Nia Clouden, scored a career-high 32 points against the Terps. After Maryland took on Michigan State, it had a dominant defensive performance against Purdue and head coach Brenda Frese credited Clouden’s success in their matchup as a motivating factor for the strong defense.
“We’ve kind of taken it personally when players have had career highs on us and I thought we took it personally defensively today,” Frese said on Jan. 10.
Overall, Michigan State shot slightly better than Maryland from the field and behind the arc as the Terps uncharacteristically struggled from the three, making just six of the 18 shots it took beyond the arc.
What’s happened since
Michigan State’s matchups with Illinois, Indiana and Michigan were postponed, while Maryland’s games against Rutgers and Iowa were postponed as well. The last time these two teams faced off, both were ranked and since they have moved opposite directions in the poll with Maryland moving up to No. 7 and Michigan State falling out.
In the four games since taking on the Spartans last, the Terps had victories over Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin but fell to No. 14 Ohio State. During the Michigan State game, redshirt junior guard Channise Lewis injured her knee and has not played since. Lewis is out for the season with a torn ACL and meniscus, leaving Maryland with nine active players.
In the last three games, the Terps have struggled to come out strong, which came back to haunt them against the Buckeyes when they did not have enough time to pull ahead at the end.
“We’d rather honestly take that bitter feeling now so that when comes March, we have that extra motivation, that extra fuel that we know what it feels like to be in a close game,” Benzan said. “We have that experience coming down to the end, so that when it comes and when it matters most in March, we’re ready and we can succeed and with a different result.”
Michigan State has only played in two games since Jan. 7 due to the postponements. The Spartans suffered a loss at home to Nebraska three days after the Terps traveled to East Lansing. Following a two week break, Michigan State had a dominant win over Wisconsin 94-62.
The 32-point win margin against the Badgers is the largest one under head coach Suzy Merchant.
Three things to watch
1. Can Mimi Collins make the impact she is capable of? The Buckeyes out-rebounded the Terps, 37-23, and redshirt sophomore forward Mimi Collins, who is second on the team in rebounds behind Bibby, grabbed zero. In the first matchup with Michigan State, Collins had nine rebounds, eight of those coming on the defensive end. The 6-foot-3 forward has had some breakout games this season, including dominating the boards at Wisconsin when she pulled in 17 rebounds.
“I can’t say enough about Mimi’s response today in practice. It was high energy, it was the response that you would want to have after coming off of a tough game the other night, so that’s why I’m encouraged for Mimi and our team,” Frese said. “When you can take that accountability, kind of get punched in and get back up and know who you are and have a great day.”
On Monday against Ohio State, Collins could not deliver, so it will be interesting to see how and if Collins can readjust and play a key role in this matchup with the Spartans.
2. Will the Terps put together a complete 40-minute game? Headed into the locker room at the half during the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State games, Maryland held the lead, but it was not as commanding as it would have liked it to be. Against the Buckeyes, Maryland allowed 26 points in the first quarter, the most the defense has allowed all season.
When the Terps faced Michigan State earlier this season, they started off strong but ended up going cold toward the end allowing their opponent to close the advantage to just two points with less than two minutes to go.
In this second matchup with the Spartans, Maryland will look to keep their energy up and maintain momentum throughout the entire game on both sides of the court.
3. Will Maryland’s defense be stronger this time against Nia Clouden? Even though the Terps left East Lansing with the win when these two teams met earlier this month, Clouden had a career-high 32 point performance.
“We’re tired of career highs, we want to have career lows for our opponents so that’s the shift in the mindset,” Frese said on what’s changed defensively since the last time Maryland played Michigan State.
Clouden shot 12-for-20 from the field including three from behind the arc and was 5-for-8 from the charity stripe. She also recorded three rebounds and five assists in the 37 minutes she saw on the court.
“Here the second time around we want to do a better job defensively on her,” Frese said. “She’s gonna score, she’s gonna do the things that Nia does but we want to make her have to be uncomfortable and make her have to take difficult shots on their offense.”