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No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball vs. Illinois preview

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The Terps will play just their third game this month.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 04 Womens - Wisconsin at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball will take on Illinois at home Wednesday as it looks to extend its three-game winning streak.

After a 10-day break from gameplay, the Terps traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Brenda Frese earned her 500th win as the Maryland head coach, making her the winningest coach in program history. The Terps defeated the Cornhuskers, 95-73, after coming out strong right from the tip and not letting off the gas for the entire matchup.

“I thought the resiliency that the team showed with the really tough travel day against Nebraska, I thought it was one of our most complete games that we came out with from start to finish,” Frese said.

Maryland has the best scoring offense in the country, averaging 91.7 points per game. Headed into this matchup, five players average 10 points or more per game against Big Ten opponents. Sophomore guards Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller, along with senior forward Chloe Bibby, average 15 points or more against conference opponents.

The last time Maryland took on Illinois was in January 2020. The Terps traveled to Champaign, Illinois and came home with a 79-60 victory. The Terps won that game, 85-56. Overall against the Fighting Illini, Maryland is 11-0.

Wednesday’s matchup will tip-off at 1 p.m. and be broadcasted on Big Ten Network.

Illinois Fighting Illini (3-13, 1-13 Big Ten)

2019-20 record: 11-19 (2-16 Big Ten)

Head coach Nancy Fahey is in her fourth season as the leader of the Fighting Illini after coaching for 31 years at Washington University in St. Louis. In her first three seasons coaching Illinois, Fahey has amassed a 30-61 record.

During the 2018-19 season, Fahey led the Illini to a 7-0 record at home, the team’s best start on Lou Henson Court since the 2006-07 season. With just three losses in its first 11 games, Fahey led Illinois to a .767 record in nonconference play.

Illinois has had trouble finding its momentum, but on Feb. 10 it hosted Purdue and came out with the conference victory. The last game the Illini played was against No. 15 Indiana on Feb. 14. Illinois lost that matchup, 58-50.

Players to know

Jeanae Terry, sophomore guard, 5’11, No. 10 - Terry leads the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. The Michigan native averages 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. In the conference win against the Boilermakers, Terry led the team with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting and had seven rebounds along with four assists. The guard matched her career-high steals with five. Against Minnesota, she was two rebounds shy of a triple-double finishing that game with 17 points, eight rebounds and a career-high 10 assists.

Jada Peebles, sophomore guard, 5’10, No. 11 - Peebles has reached double-figures scoring in 11 out of 16 games this season, including hitting 13 points against No. 14 Indiana. She is second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.4 points per game. Peebles scored a career-high 21 points against Minnesota. She matched her career-best successful three-point shots by sinking five.

Kennedi Myles, sophomore forward, 6’2, No. 44 - Myles averages 9.3 points, 7.8 boards and five blocks per game. This season, Myles has had double-digit rebounds in three games. Against Indiana, the sophomore forward pulled in a season-high-tying 14 rebounds. As a freshman, Myles was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after averaging 15.5 points and 16 rebounds over two games. She broke the 43-year freshman rebound record by grabbing 20 against Evansville.

Strength

Blocking shots and stealing the ball. Illinois has had 52 blocks this season, which is an average of 3.3 per game. On average, Maryland’s opponents record 2.5 per game so the Illini’s average is slightly higher. Illinois has five players with five or more blocks this season and redshirt junior center Eva Rubin, who is 6-foot-5, leads the way with 19 averaging 1.3 per game. The Illini have also been successful at taking the ball away 7.6 per game. Terry, Myles and Peeble account for 70 of the team’s 121 this season.

Weakness

Scoring margin. Illinois has a scoring margin of -10.3 while Maryland’s is 18.4. The Terps currently average 91.7 points per game, the highest in the nation, while Illinois averages 59.9 points.

“[The spread-out scoring] likens to a championship team,” Frese said. “I mean when you know you just want to make the right play and the right read... I think they’ve just been really unselfish of making easy plays for one another.”

The average points per game of Illinois’ opponents so far this season is 70.2 while Maryland’s opponents average 73.3. Maryland averages 21.5 points per game more than the Illini’s opponents so far this season though, while Illinois averages 13.3 points less than the Terps’ opponents this season.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland come out as strong as it did against Nebraska? The Terps started off hot against the Cornhuskers and kept their energy up the entire game. In the first half alone, four players reached double-digit scoring, and by the end of the game, sophomore guards Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller had 25 and 24 points, respectively. After the loss to Ohio State, Maryland has focused on keeping its momentum up for all 40-minutes of gameplay after struggling to put together full performances on both sides of the court earlier this season.

2. What will Katie Benzan look like in this matchup? Although the grad transfer from Harvard had seven assists against Nebraska, she had an uncharacteristic night when it came to shooting. Benzan tallied just two points shooting 1-for-6 from the field, going 0-for-3 from behind the arc. Against Michigan State, Benzan had nine points and all three successful shots were from deep.

“She’s allowing everybody else to be able to get some really easy looks because the defense has to spend and pay so much attention to her,” Frese said. “But what I love about her— you wouldn’t even know whether she scores 20 points or three points, you would never know because she just wants to make winning plays.”

When the Terps took on Wisconsin, Benzan led the team with 18 points. Benzan makes 50% of her shots from the field and 51.8% from behind the arc, averaging 14.6 points per game behind Owusu and Miller. So, it will be interesting to see what her role will be against the Illini.

3. What will playing time for the bench look like? The Terps have just nine active players on the roster following the injuries of freshman forward Angel Reese and redshirt junior guard Channise Lewis. Against Nebraska, all four players on the bench saw the court for at least five minutes. They combined for nine points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Sophomore forward Faith Masonious saw the most time, 19 minutes, and had seven rebounds — five of those came in on the defensive end.

In a matchup where the teams have such a stark difference in average points per game in Maryland’s favor, the bench may see even more playing time than it has in the last few games.