No. 10 Maryland women’s basketball (12-2) will face unranked Wisconsin (4-11) at Xfinity Center Thursday. The Terps are looking for their ninth conference win on the season, as they have only dropped one game in Big Ten play through nine conference games.
After losing to then-No. 14 Ohio State in a 88-86 battle on the road on Jan. 25, the Terps answered back in a big way just three days later. Maryland dismantled a strong Michigan State team in College Park, as the Terps would go on to win by 40 points in one of their most dominant showings of the season.
“After a dominating performance against Michigan State it’s been exciting to be able to see where the team has really taken their practices and, you know, they’ve just really been performing at a really high level,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.
Maryland outscored Michigan State in every quarter, highlighted by a 50 point first half on the offensive end. Even more impressive for the Terps was their defensive effort. The Spartans’ highest-scoring quarter totaled to just 15 points, and they were held to just nine points in the final frame. The Spartans’ 52 points were the second-lowest opponent point total that Maryland has let up this season. The Terps held Purdue to an opponent season-low of 46 points on Jan 10.
Now, the Terps are afforded the luxury of staying in College Park and will look to capture yet another win against a Big Ten opponent on their home court. Maryland is 5-0 at home this season with three of those wins coming against Big Ten teams.
Thursday’s matchup tips-off at 4 p.m. and will be televised on Big Ten Network.
What happened last time
The Terps last faced the Badgers at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin, on Jan. 17. Maryland was coming off of nine straight wins, highlighted by five straight victories against Big Ten squads.
Maryland never seemed to find its footing against Wisconsin, even from the early stages in the opening quarter. The Terps opened the game with just 36.8% shooting and went 2-for-6 from three-point range.
The Terps were unable to improve on their offense efficiency the rest of the way, finishing with a mediocre 38.2% clip from the field as a team, with just six three-pointers on 21 attempts. However, despite the weak shooting, Maryland was able to come out on top with a 79-70 win to hold off Wisconsin.
Chloe Bibby and Diamond Miller led Maryland on the offensive end and tied for a team-high 17 points apiece. Mimi Collins shined for the Terps on the boards in this one, going for a career-high 17 rebounds in 34 minutes on the floor.
Overall, it wasn’t Maryland’s best performance and the Terps’ slow pace to start the game really hurt them moving forward in the contest, but they were able to pull off the gritty win. Getting off to a quick start in the second matchup between these two teams that are on opposite ends of the Big Ten standings might be a point of emphasis for Frese’s Terps.
What’s happened since
Looking at Maryland, the Terps have played just two games and also had two postponements since defeating Wisconsin on Jan. 17. Maryland fell to the likes of then-No. 14 Ohio State, but recaptured its momentum after taking down Michigan State in a rout at home. The Terps had two games postponed due to health and travel complications, with one against Iowa on Jan. 21 and the other against Rutgers on Jan. 28 both being pushed back.
The Terps have bounced around the national rankings since defeating Wisconsin, going from the No. 7 team in the country and now moving back to No. 10.
On the flip side, the Badgers sit second-to-last in the Big Ten standings and haven’t found much success as of late. Wisconsin has just one conference win on the season, and has amassed just a 4-11 record. The Badgers have not captured a road win yet, collecting five losses in as many games.
However, the Badgers are coming off of their fourth win of the season after defeating last-place Illinois by 12 at home. Before that win, Wisconsin had lost nine straight games and hadn't won since Dec. 20.
Since losing to Maryland by nine on Jan. 17, Wisconsin has gone 3-4. The Badgers lost to Purdue, Michigan State and Nebraska since facing the Terps.
Three things to watch
1. Will we see Maryland play with noticeable desperation again? After a let-down showing against a tough Ohio State squad, Maryland bounced back in a huge way just three days later. The Terps took down Michigan State in what was one of their strongest games of the year.
Maryland was quick on the defensive end and constantly forced the Spartans to turn the ball over off of double-teams. On offense, players were hitting their shots and moving swiftly without the ball. The two-way game for Maryland shined in its 40-point win. It was a level of desperation in play that we haven’t really seen from the Terps until that point, and it’ll be interesting to see if Maryland is able to maintain just that.
2. Will Ashley Owusu continue to dominate? The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year has done everything this season but take any kind of step backwards. Owusu is averaging 19 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game this season to help buoy the nation’s top scoring team.
“It’s really been tremendous to be able to watch the role that Ashley has grown into,” Frese said. “She has developed into possessing those leadership skills and the communication skills that you need from that guard position.”
Her versatility on the offensive end is almost unstoppable, as she is able to create any kind of shot she desires. Owusu’s driving ability, pull-up jumpers and playmaking have helped her to be named one of 10 finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, which recognizes the top shooting guard in the nation. Owusu has scored a combined 53 points in Maryland’s last two games, and it seems as though nothing can stop the sophomore’s dominance as the season progresses.
“How much of a great communicator she is,” Collins shared on what she has learned about Owusu after playing over the course of the season with her. “Everybody thinks that Ashley’s not vocal, but Ashley will have a whole conversation with you during the whole game because her basketball IQ is so high.”
3. Will the Terps’ three-point shooting propel them to another win? In the last game against the Spartans, the Terps shot 14-for-28 from three-point range, en route to yet another 90+ point performance. Six different Maryland players hit at least one three in the blowout win.
On the season, Maryland averages around nine three-pointers per game and shoots around 40% from deep as a team. The Terps continue to live from behind the arc and average 92 points per game because of it. Look for Maryland to consistently launch it from three against Wisconsin come Thursday.