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Maryland women’s basketball NCAA Tournament preview: Sweet 16 vs Texas

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The Terps look to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 2015.

No. 2 seed Maryland women’s basketball has had a dominant opening run in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

After defeating No. 15 seed Mount St. Mary’s in the first round, 98-45, the Terps went on to win against No. 7 seed Alabama, 100-64, in the Round of the 32. Maryland will look to build on its momentum as it faces No. 6 seed Texas in the Sweet 16.

The 53-point victory margin of victory Maryland had over the Mount is the largest by any team in program history, men’s and women’s, in an NCAA Tournament matchup. Against Alabama, Maryland hit the century mark for the seventh time this season which is tied for the third-most in a season by a men’s or women’s team in program history. And the 198 points through the first two NCAA Tournament games set a new Big Ten record.

“[This team has] been just a joy to coach in a really difficult situation,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I think this team has given a lot of our Maryland fans and...the people that are supporting us just a lot of joy to be able to see this team and how far they’ve gone.”

Maryland has the No. 1 scoring offense in the country averaging 91.8 points per game, along with the nation’s top assist to turnover ratio at 1.70. With six different players who average 10 or more points, anyone on the Maryland roster can score at any time.

Sophomore guards Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller lead the way with 18.1 and 17.1 points per game, respectively. Owusu’s assists also rank fourth in the nation at 166 and senior guard Katie Benzan leads the country with her three-point field goal percentage (.506).

Maryland last played Texas in March 2014 during the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Terps won, 69-64 and advanced to the Final Four that season. Overall against the Longhorns, Maryland is 4-1.

Sunday’s matchup will start at 9 p.m. and air on ESPN.

Texas Longhorns (20-9, 11-7 Big 12)

2019-20 record: 19-11 (11-7 Big 12)

Head coach Vic Schaefer is in his first season with the Longhorns. Prior to his time at Texas, he was the head coach at Mississippi State, where he led the Bulldogs to a 221-62 record.

In his first season at the helm, Texas defeated Iowa State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament before falling to top-seeded Baylor in the second round. The Longhorns defeated No. 11 seed Bradley, 81-62, and then upset No. 3 seed UCLA in the Round of 32 to advance to the Sweet 16.

Players to know

Charli Collier, junior forward, 6-foot-5, No. 35 — Collier dominates on the glass, averaging 11.6 boards per game. Against Bradley, she had 15 boards and against UCLA she pulled in five. Collier also leads the team in points, averaging 19.7 per game. Although UCLA shut her down, allowing only five points in 26 minutes, against Bradley, she put up 23 points. Collier has had 17 games this season where she’s scored 20 or more points, including a 44-point performance against North Texas in November.

Celeste Taylor, sophomore guard, 5-foot-11, No. 0 — Taylor averages the second-most points per game behind Collier at 12.4. She also pulls in the second most rebounds on the team, averaging 4.6 per game. The Longhorns average 21 points off turnovers and Taylor leads the team in steals with 2.2 per game. She scored a game-high 24 points against UCLA, shooting 9-for-17 from the field and 2-for-5 from deep. In Texas’ first NCAA Tournament matchup against Bradley, Taylor had eight points, seven boards, three assists, two blocks and four steals in 29 minutes.

Joanne Allen-Taylor, junior guard, 5-foot-8, No. 11 — Allen-Taylor averages the third-most points on the team with 12.3 per game and co-leads the Longhorns from behind the arc with 1.3 three-point shots made per game. Against the Bruins, the Houston native scored 16 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field, including three made shots made from deep.

Strength

Defense. The Longhorns average 37.7 rebounds per game and have a 2.8 rebounding margin. When it comes to forcing turnovers, Texas’ opponents average 19 per game. Much like the Terps, the Longhorns capitalize on their opponents’ mistakes as well. They average 21.2 points off takeaways, while Maryland averages 21.0 points off turnovers.

“I think you’re going to see both teams wanting to turn each other over,” Frese said. “And which team is going to be more successful at it and which team is going to be able to capitalize through those turnovers to finish plays I think it’s going to be an important element in this game.”

Weakness

Fouling. In the first two NCAA Tournament games, Texas committed a total of 35 personal fouls. The Terps have a 78.97% free throw percentage, which ranks eighth in the nation, and will look to take advantage. Against Mount St. Mary’s, Maryland hit 25 of its 30 shots from the charity stripe, and against Alabama, the Terps hit nine of their 13 free throws. If the Longhorns send the Terps to the free-throw line, then they can be sure that Maryland will run up the score.

Three things to watch

1. Who will have the hot hand for the Terps? If there is anything Maryland women’s basketball fans have learned this season it is that any player on this roster can heat up at any moment. With six players averaging 10 or more points per game, this offense is a difficult one to scout. In addition to that, the remaining players are still offensive weapons.

“I don’t think our confidence has waivered all year, that’s something that we definitely don’t lack. And yeah, I mean when we see that ball go in, just it’s contagious,” senior forward Chloe Bibby said. “...Everyone feeds off that energy and yeah confidence is something that we definitely don’t lack and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Against Alabama, sophomore guard Faith Masonius, who averages 6.9 points per game, had a career-high 16 points, shooting 7-for-8 from the field. The bench combined for 46 of the Terps’ 100 points scored against the Tide. With 43 assists on 76 field goals in the first two rounds of the tournament, this Maryland team shares the ball and any player can have the hot hand on any given night.

2. Can the Terps outrebound the Longhorns? Texas averages 37.7 rebounds per game while Maryland grabs about 41.3 boards per game. Maryland is currently averaging 43 rebounds over the first two NCAA Tournament matchups, so this game will be a battle on the glass.

“We’re just going to play Maryland defense, Maryland offense, and that’s just how we're going into the game,” Bibby said. “With all the confidence that we’ve been playing with and I think that when our defense is rolling, so is our offense. So, we're just locked in.”

Redshirt sophomore guard Mimi Collins and Bibby lead the team in rebounds, averaging 6.2 and 6.0 boards per game, respectively. Miller and Owusu average 5.8 rebounds and 5.7 rebounds, respectively while Masonius pulls in 5.1 boards per game.

3. Will Maryland advance to its first Elite Eight since 2015? Under head coach Brenda Frese, the Terps have had six Elite Eight appearances. There have been many comparisons made between the 2006 team and this squad, but the biggest difference between the two teams is that the ‘06 team won the National Championship and this team has not gotten there yet.

“The ‘06 team holds weight, they’ve won a title, this team is yet to be determined. But the characteristics, you know, the chemistry, the sisterhood, both teams no drama, play for each other you know you can see that. Both teams, that ‘06 team, all five starters averaged in double figures — this team has six players,” Frese said. “The difference in this team is their positive assist to turnover ratio. They’re number one in the country. That’s something the ’06 team didn’t have. They had a negative assist to turnover ratio. So, just a beautiful style of basketball.”

The next step to bridging the gap between the 2006 National Championship team and this one is defeating the Longhorns and their tough defense to advance to the Elite Eight.