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No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball vs No. 12 Michigan preview

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The Terps face their highest-ranked opponent of the season in the Wolverines.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball (19-2, 15-1 Big Ten) will face No. 12 Michigan (13-3, 8-3) Thursday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as the Terps search for their ninth straight win with the postseason approaching.

“They’re just a really well balanced team and we’re gonna have to bring our best defensive effort and our rebounding,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.

After Maryland took down Northwestern in its last game, the Terps improved to a strong 8-1 record on the road. The Terps have dropped just one Big Ten game all season, with the lone loss coming to then-No. 17 Ohio State on Jan. 25.

Now, Maryland has just two games left remaining on the regular season before the Big Ten tournament that begins on March 9 in Indianapolis. After facing Michigan, the Terps will take on Penn State in College Park on March 6.

“From the moment that we stepped on the court, I think we’ve all been excited about what this team can do and who we are,” forward Chloe Bibby said. “And I think we’ve just built upon that throughout the season and we’ve gotten so much better just from the beginning.”

The matchup with the Wolverines is a makeup matchup for a game that was originally set for Feb. 7. Thursday’s matchup tips off at 12 p.m. and will be televised on Big Ten Network.

Here’s what Maryland is up against in Michigan.

No. 12 Michigan Wolverines (13-3, 8-3 Big Ten)

2019-20 record: 21-11 (10-8 Big Ten)

Head coach Kim Barnes Arico is in her ninth season as the head coach of the Michigan women’s basketball program. She’s the winningest coach in program history and she is the only coach in program history to have eight 20-win seasons. Barnes Arico was named the 2017 Big Ten Coach of the Year by the coaches and media, becoming the first consensus winner in school history. Michigan has made the postseason in seven of her eight seasons as the head coach, as the Wolverines only missed the 2019-20 postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This season, Michigan is a top team in the country and a willing challenger for Maryland. The Wolverines currently sit third in the Big Ten standings, just behind Indiana and the Terps.

Players to know

Naz Hillmon, junior forward, 6-foot-2, No. 00 — Hillmon is easily one of the best players in all of women’s college basketball. She’s second in the Big Ten in scoring with an average of 25.8 points per game on nearly 65% shooting from the field. Hillmon is lethal in the paint and an absolute force from everywhere on the court besides beyond the perimeter. She is also co-leading the Big Ten in rebounds per game with 11.3. Hillmon is the centerpiece of this Wolverines’ squad and will certainly see a large chunk of time on the floor when Maryland comes to visit.

“It’s gonna take a collective team defensive presence,” Frese said about stopping Hillmon.

Leigha Brown, junior guard/forward, 6-foot-1, No. 32 — Brown is another weapon for Michigan that will be a big factor on the offensive end of the floor. She is second on the Wolverines in scoring with an average of 18.7 points per game and she has yet to score below 11 points in a contest this season. She’s also an extremely efficient shooter with a 54% shooting clip from the field as well as a 40.5% shooting mark from deep.

Brown is also tied for the team lead in steals with 17 and averages just over three assists per game as well. She’s just another strong player for the Wolverines who will see a lot of time on the floor against the Terps.

Amy Dilk, junior guard, 6-foot-1, No. 1 — Dilk is another key cog for Michigan, as she has started in 15 of the 16 games she has appeared in this season. Despite only averaging 7.8 points per game, Dilk is easily the best playmaking guard on the Wolverines’ roster. She has 27 more assists than any other Michigan player and averages around 4.3 assists per game. She also co-leads the team in steals and averages the third-most rebounds on the roster with 5.1 per game. And while her field goal percentage isn’t eye-popping (32.8%), she is a strong free-throw shooter at an 80% clip. Look out for Dilk to be the facilitator for Michigan’s offense come Thursday.

Strength

Rebounding. The Wolverines tend to do a lot of their dirty work on inside the paint area. As a result, their rebounding margin is currently at a strong mark of +12.8 and they are second in the Big Ten (behind Maryland) with 14.4 offensive rebounds per game. The Terps have a very similar positive rebounding clip with a +8.2 margin on the season. If Michigan uses its rebounding strengths to its advantage on Thursday, Maryland could have a tough day in the paint.

Weakness

Turnovers. Through 16 games, Michigan averages more turnovers per game than its opponents. The Wolverines turn the ball over an average of 15.3 times per game compared to its opponents that average 13.3 per game. With Maryland’s defensive quality improving during its current winning streak, it should look to aid its top scoring offense with strong defensive play against Michigan.

Three things to watch

1. How will we see Maryland’s offense respond after an off-game? Last time out, the Terps put up a season-low in points against Northwestern when they scored just 62 after the final buzzer sounded. Maryland shot under 40% against the Wildcats and went just 2-for-13 from three-point range in the win. Despite the relatively poor shooting performance, the Terps still have the top scoring offense in the nation with 91.7 points per game. It’ll be interesting to see how Maryland responds against Michigan after its lowest scoring game of the season.

2. How will veterans Katie Benzan and Chloe Bibby bounce back after rough performances? The poor showings from Benzan and Bibby were a big reason as to why Maryland failed to produce much on offense against Northwestern. Both players average a combined 28.1 points per game for the Terps, but managed just seven combined points on 1-for-12 shooting. The duo will need a much better performance against the Wolverines if the Terps hope to come out with their ninth road win on the season.

3. Will the Terps be able to defeat its highest-ranked opponent of the season? Against ranked opponents this season, Maryland has accumulated a 3-2 record. The Terps have defeated then-No. 14 Arkansas, then-No. 18 Indiana and then-No. 23 Michigan State. It has a chance to bolster its resume with another quality top-25 victory heading into the postseason. Currently, the Terps are projected to be a two-seed in March Madness, but a win against Michigan can certainly propel them into the one-seed conversation as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“Everyday, we’re just trying to come in and just get better, so we’re ready for March,” Bibby said. “It doesn’t matter who we are playing, we are playing Maryland basketball and we’re playing for a national championship.”