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No. 14 Maryland women’s basketball vs No. 20 Indiana preview

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The Terps will start off 2021 with their first Big Ten home game of the season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Following a 96-82 victory over Penn State last Thursday, No. 14 Maryland women’s basketball (6-1) will look to pick up their first win of 2021 on Monday as they host No. 20 Indiana.

Head coach Brenda Frese and her squad extended their winning streak to five games on New Years Eve, with sophomore guard Ashley Owusu putting up a career-high 34 points in the victory over the Nittany Lions. Diamond Miller, Chloe Bibby and Faith Masonius also broke double digits in scoring with 17, 13 and 11 points, respectively. The Terps now sit at 2-0 in Big Ten play.

Monday’s game will be the 11th matchup between Maryland and Indiana; the Terrapins have won all of the previous 10 matchups. Last season, the two programs met three times with Maryland coming out on top 76-62, 79-69 and 66-51.

Despite past success against Indiana, Frese doesn’t plan on overlooking the Big Ten preseason favorite, mentioning the difficulty of the upcoming game at a press conference Sunday.

“When you look at [Indiana’s] guard play and their inside game, I mean it’s just a team with a ton of experience,” said Frese.

Monday’s game will be the first home conference game of the 2020-21 season for Maryland and their first matchup of the season with a ranked Big Ten opponent. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and will be available to watch on ESPN2.

No. 20 Indiana Hoosiers (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten)

2019 record: 24-8 (13-5 Big Ten)

Head coach Teri Moren is in her seventh season at the helm in Bloomington, Indiana. Starting her head coaching job at Indiana in 2014-15, Moren’s first season didn’t go as smoothly as fans hoped, as the team finished with a 15-16 record. That season, however, was the first and only one that Moren would finish with a losing record. For the next five years, the Indiana women’s basketball program finished every season with 20+ wins.

Last season could easily be argued as Moren’s best. The Seymour, Indiana native coached her team to a 24-8 record, setting a program record for wins in a season. The Hoosiers placed in the Associated Press Top 25 poll in all 20 weeks of the 2019-20 season, earning their highest ranking in program history at No. 12. Moren also led her team to upset then-ranked No. 5 South Carolina at the 2019 Paradise Jam, Indiana’s first ever win against a top-five nonconference opponent.

Moren and her team seem to have picked up right were they left off in the Big Ten this year, currently riding a three-game winning streak after defeating Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois.

Players to know

Mackenzie Holmes, sophomore forward, 6-foot-3, No. 54 – After a solid freshman campaign that earned her a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in 2019-20, Mackenzie Holmes seemed poised for a big sophomore year, but the Gorham, Maine native has gone above and beyond this season.

Holmes has been an absolute force on offense and defense for the Hoosiers, leading the team in points per game (16.3) and blocks per game (3.3). An anchor on either end of the court, Holmes is sure to provide plenty of trouble in the paint for a Brenda Frese’s bigs.

“The key is just playing Maryland defense,” forward Chloe Bibby said. “Playing as tough as we can, boxing her out on defense and really limiting her touches in the post.”

Grace Berger, junior guard, 6-foot-0, No. 34 – Coming off an impressive sophomore season, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Grace Berger has been playing with the same electricity that earned her All-Big Ten First Team honors in 2020.

The Louisville, Kentucky native has been living up to the preseason All-Big Ten recognition, averaging team-highs in assists (5.1) and minutes per game (28.7). Berger’s scoring ability hasn’t diminished this year either, as her 13.4 points per game place her below only Holmes. The junior guard’s combination of court vision and scoring ability will be a point of focus for Maryland’s defense.

Aleksa Gulbe, junior forward, 6’3, no. 10 – Averaging 9.6 points per game, Aleksa Gulba may not be Indiana’s first scoring choice on offense, but her defensive tenacity and ball-hawking ability has the potential to make Monday’s contest a nightmare for the Terp’s offense.

Starting in all but one game during last season, the Latvian native led the Hoosiers in total blocks (37) and was second in total steals (39). This season, Gulbe has looked like the same defensive force that helped Indiana to a 24-8 record, leading the Hoosiers with 13 total steals, paired with her six blocks– trailing Holmes for the lead. The combination of Gulbe and Holmes down low should be an interesting matchup for a Maryland offense that has cleaned up early-season turnover woes in recent games.

Strength

Defensive powerhouse. The defensive prowess of the Hoosiers is what makes them a dangerous threat to win the conference. Indiana sits atop the Big Ten defensive rankings, allowing just 52.9 points per game, and is tied for the second-most blocks per game with Rutgers at 39, two less than leader Nebraska (41).

In addition to the shot-blocking, Moren’s team currently has the second-lowest opponent field goal percentage in the conference at .32.3%. If Indiana is going to leave College Park with a win, it’s going to need to utilize that defensive brick wall that has carried it to a perfect conference record in order to slow down a high-powered Maryland offense.

Weakness

Shot-making. While the Hoosier’s staunch defense has been a defining factor in their early success, their offense seems to be what’s holding them back from being a legitimate national title contender. While Maryland holds the No. 1 spot in the country and conference for points per game with 97.3, Indiana is ninth in the Big Ten with 76.

The Hoosiers have also struggled from three point range, making just 36 of 133 attempted shots this year to give them the third-worst field goal percentage (.27.1%). With just three players averaging double-digits in scoring, Indiana might run into trouble early.

Three things to watch

1. How will Maryland’s red-hot offense perform against Indiana’s defense? Not only is Maryland leading the entire NCAA in points per game, but it also has the ninth-best field goal percentage in the country at 50%. Frese’s team has been on a scoring rampage, and with five different players averaging above 10 points per game, the scoring options are endless.

“We’re together, we’re really synced on and off the court,” forward Mimi Collins said.

Indiana has become a defensive nightmare for opponents this season, so it will be interesting to see if the Hoosiers can put a stop to the Terps’ fast-paced offense before they get hot.

2. Can Ashley Owusu capitalize on her career performance? Sophomore guard Ashley Owusu could not seem to miss a shot during Maryland’s victory over Penn State last Thursday, hitting off balanced shots, contested layups and a few threes to cap off a career-high 34-point game on 15-for-22 shooting.

If Maryland wants to create some distance early on against Indiana, Frese will likely look to Owusu to get the team going from mid-range and beyond the arc considering Indiana’s intimidating defensive presence in the paint.

3. Will the Terps be able to recover from poor performances from deep? After multiple games were Maryland seemed like it couldn’t miss from three-point range, the team went inexplicably cold against James Madison, going 7-for-20. At Penn State, the team suffered its second-worst three-point shooting performance of the season, hitting just four out of 19 triples

As Maryland gears up to face an Indiana team that doesn’t look likely to budge defensively in the paint, it will be interesting to see if Frese’s offense will snap out of its cold streak or if it will be another day of struggles from outside.