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Maryland women's basketball preview: Terps return home to face Northwestern

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The Terps host an experienced Wildcats team on Sunday, as Northwestern searches for a second-straight top-10 win.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland women's basketball escaped with a 73-67 road victory against Michigan on Thursday night, and on Sunday afternoon the Terps return home to host the Northwestern Wildcats. The game will tip off at noon, and if you can't be at the Xfinity Center, you can still watch it live on the Big Ten Network or BTN2Go. Those who do show up to the game will receive a Tierney Pfirman bobblehead.

If Maryland shoots the ball the way it did in Ann Arbor, then this Wildcat team will pose a threat. Northwestern has been ranked as high as No. 12 in the AP Poll this season, and although the Wildcats don't currently have a number preceding their name, a win against Ohio State ought to change that. Northwestern beat the No. 5 Buckeyes, 86-82, in a thriller on Thursday night. The win was the program's first over a top-5 team since 1996.

It will certainly be a tall order for the Wildcats to beat another top-10 team on just two days' rest, especially in College Park. However, it's clear that the Terps will need a strong performance to take them down. It should be an interesting matchup.

Northwestern (13-4, 2-3 B1G)

The coach

Joe McKeown. One of the most experienced coaches in women's college basketball, McKeown holds a career record of 633-288. This is his 30th year as a head coach and his eighth at Northwestern. He is best known for a brilliant 19-year stint at George Washington, in which the Colonials won 19 NCAA Tournament games and reached the Elite 8 in 1997. He left for Evanston in 2008, but the Wildcats still haven't reached the dance since his arrival. Expect that to change this year.

Players to know

Nia Coffey, junior, forward, 6'1, No. 10. The Wildcats' best player was recently named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 List. She's averaging a team-high 18.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Coffey has started 80 of 81 games in her career, and has been the Wildcats' top scorer and rebounder in each of her three seasons. She left the Ohio State game with an injury in the fourth quarter, but is expected to play against the Terps.

Maggie Lyon, senior, guard, 6'2, No. 25. A four-year starter who has always been a threat thanks to her lefty jump shot. Lyon has hit 226 three-pointers in her career, and this season is recording 16.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. She's second on the team in each category.

Ashley Deary, junior, guard, 5'4, No. 3. The Wildcat point guard leads the nation with a whopping 4.5 steals per game, and also averages a conference-best 6.5 assists. She can also get her own on the offensive end, averaging 13.7 points. She's also shooting 36.2 percent from downtown, the highest mark on the team.

Christen Inman, junior, guard, 5'10, No. 24. Another scoring threat who racks up 15.4 points per game. Inman is also the best free-throw shooter of the starters, making them at a 75.8 percent clip this year (although Lyon has a better percentage in conference play).

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, freshman, forward, 6'2, No. 14. Northwestern has struggled all season long to find a fifth starter. Kunaiyi-Akpanah is fresh off a 14-point, 14-rebound breakout performance against Ohio State, but it's still not clear if she's that player. Her previous season high was 4 points. She's a strong rebounder for sure, but her scoring abilities may prove to be the difference.

Strength

Forcing turnovers. The Wildcats' 11.6 steals per game are 10th in the country and first in the conference. As previously mentioned, Deary has more than anyone in the country. Ball control will be imperative for the Terps, because if they get sloppy, there will be consequences.

Weakness

Three-point shooting. In conference play, Northwestern is shooting just 28.2 percent from three-point range. Lyon, the team's highest-volume shooter, is about 6 percent less accurate this season than last. Long-range shooting isn't a forte for the rest of the core four, either, but each player is capable of draining one in a big moment.

Prediction

Maryland, 85-80.