No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball is on the road in Evanston, Illinois to take on Northwestern Sunday.
After losing to then-No. 14 Ohio State, Maryland has won seven straight. During this win streak, the Terps have been playing unselfishly and sharing the ball, averaging 22.3 assists per game.
Maryland averages 93.2 points per game, the No. 1 scoring offense in the country. The Terps are currently on track to become the highest scoring offense in program history, as no other team has averaged over 90 points per game.
The Terps have five players who average more than 10 points against Big Ten opponents — sophomore guard Ashley Owusu, sophomore guard Diamond Miller, senior guard Chloe Bibby, senior guard Katie Benzan and freshman forward Angel Reese. Owusu leads the team with 20.4 and Miller comes in second with 17.7. Bibby and Benzan score 14.5 and 14.3 points per game, respectively, and Reese averages 12.5 in two contests. Redshirt sophomore forward Mimi Collins is close behind averaging 9.9 points per game.
The Terps are also have the top three-point field goal percentage (.420) in the country, are second in assist/turnover ratio (1.62), fourth in field goal percentage (.490), fifth in free-throw percentage (.796), seventh in assists (20.2) and eighth in scoring margin (+20.9).
Last season, Maryland and Northwestern split the season series, however, the last time these two teams met the Terps won at home, 70-61. Overall against the Wildcats, Maryland is 9-1.
“We’re gonna have to value the basketball, value possessions,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “It’s hard to replicate the blizzard zone defense that they play, so for us we want to continue to do what we at Maryland and be the most prepared team.”
Sunday’s matchup will start at 4 p.m. and air on ESPN2.
Northwestern Wildcats (13-5, 11-5 Big Ten)
2019-20 record: 26-4 (16-2 Big Ten)
Head coach Joe McKeown is in his 13th season as the leader of the Wildcats after coaching for 19 seasons at George Washington University. In 13 seasons, McKeown has amassed a 221-178 record.
During the 2019-20 season, McKeown led the Wildcats to the program’s second Big Ten regular season title (split with Maryland) and the first one since the 1989-90 season. After the historic season, McKeown was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year and was one of five semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy Women’s College Coach of the Year.
Northwestern was ranked earlier this season, however, since losing to Nebraska on Feb. 17, the team have fallen out of the AP Top 25. Following that loss, the Wildcats have been on a two-game win streak, beating Wisconsin at home and Illinois on the road. Though unranked, they received votes in the latest poll.
Players to know
Lindsey Pulliam, senior guard, 5-foot-10, No. 10 - During the 2019-20 season, Pulliam became the fastest player to reach 1000 points in program history and led the team with 563 points and 202 field goals. The Maryland native was the third-best scorer in the Big Ten, averaging 18.8 points per game, and was unanimously selected to All-Big Ten first team. The accolades continued to roll in as she was an AP All American Honorable Mention.
This season, Pulliam has continued to make an impact on the court. She is second on the team in scoring, three-point field goals, free throws, rebounds, and is first in field goals made per game. In the matchup against Illinois, Pulliam had 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists to guide the Wildcats to their 13th win of the season.
Veronica Burton, junior guard, 5-foot-9, No. 12 - Burton leads the team in points per game, three-point baskets per game, free throws, assists and steals. Earlier this season against Purdue, Burton scored a career-high 27 points and had five steals. When facing Nebraska, the junior guard matched her career-high in steals when she grabbed six. In the Wildcats’ last game, against Illinois, Burton had 20 points, five assists and went a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe.
“They’re two great players,” Frese said of Pulliam and Burton. “They’re gonna score the basketball because they’re really, really talented, but I think making them have to take tough shots — tough twos, tough threes — making them uncomfortable with our defense [will be key].”
Sydney Wood, junior guard/forward, 5-foot-11, No. 3 - Following the 2019-20 season, Wood earned All-Big Ten honorable mention and had the third best assist/turnover ratio in the conference at 2.3. This season against Michigan in January, Wood matched her career-high scoring by putting up 19 points on a career-best shooting from the free throw line, going 9-for-10 from the charity stripe. Wood averages 2.9 steals per game and leads the team with an average of 5.4 boards per game and 1.1 blocks per game. Wood averages the third most points per game, behind Burton and Pulliam with 12.6.
Stealing the ball and blocking shots. Northwestern has 228 steals this season, which is an average of 12.7 per game. The Terps have 170 steals through 20 games and they average 8.5 per game. Burton leads the Wildcats with 75 this season. Owusu and Benzan have the most steals for the Terps, but each have just 28, which is 47 less takeaways than Burton.
When it comes to blocking shots, Northwestern has 67, an average of 3.7 per game, while Maryland has 54, an average of 2.7 blocks. The Wildcats’ best blocker, Wood, has 19 blocks this season. The Terps’ best blocker, Miller, has 16.
Rebounding. Northwestern has an average rebound margin of 1.8, grabbing an average of 34.4 per game. Maryland averages almost 10 boards higher with 42.4 per game and has an 8.4 margin. Six players on the Maryland roster average 5.5 rebounds or more per game. Only one Northwestern player averages more than 5.5 boards per game. With freshman guard Angel Reese back in the lineup, the Terps have even more power on the boards. In just 19 minutes on the court against Purdue, Reese grabbed nine rebounds.
Three things to watch
1. What will the offense look like for Maryland? After an explosive performance against the No. 2 offense in the country, Iowa, Maryland slowed down against Purdue, but still put up 88 points. Against the Hawkeyes, the Terps were hot from all over the court, including Benzan’s record breaking performance of nine threes in a single game. However, against the Boilermakers, the offense looked a little different. The majority of Maryland’s points in the matchup with Purdue came from inside the paint (54 of 88).
2. How will Angel Reese continue to add depth to an already strong Maryland team? Since freshman forward Reese made her surprise appearance in the game against Iowa, she has continued to be a force for the Terps. In her first time back on the court since Dec. 3, Reese had six points and two boards in eight minutes. Against Purdue, Reese led the team in points (17), rebounds (9) and blocks (3) in just 19 minutes. The No. 2 recruit also had an assist and two steals.
“This has been the first time on the road now [that] we haven’t had to use an assistant coach to put 10 players on the floor to be able to practice,” Frese said of the team’s depth. “When you look at the Big Ten Tournament, when you look at the NCAAs, it’s quick games back-to-back every other day, so your depth is really going to matter.”
3. What kind of impact will the bench have in this matchup? The five active players on the bench all saw time on the court against Purdue, with sophomore guard Faith Masonius leading the way with 25 minutes. However, Reese and senior forward Alaysia Styles were close behind with 19 and 17 minutes, respectively.
Masonius had a strong showing for the Terps, putting up 10 points, eight boards, four assists and five steals. Styles had eight points, shot 4-for-5 from the field and had two rebounds and two assists. The bench players continue to play a role in the success of this Maryland team. With a small roster, they will only continue to make an impact headed into March, starting with Sunday’s matchup.
“For anyone coming off the bench, you want to have a positive impact for your team,” Masonius said. “Just staying focused and when it’s my time to come in bringing the energy and just staying focused on what we need to do offensively and defensively.”