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Maryland women's basketball preview: Terps travel to Evanston for rematch against Northwestern

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A hectic stretch continues for the Terps.

Sammi Silber/Testudo Times

Maryland women’s basketball has been very busy as of late. The No. 7 Terps just completed a stretch of four games in 10 days, all against Big Ten powerhouses. This week, they got outrun by Ohio State Monday night and coasted past Purdue on Thursday to move to 22-3 overall and 11-2 in conference play.

But the time to relax is not now. Maryland is back in action Sunday afternoon at Northwestern. The Wildcats are a talented team, but their season has gone off the rails. After knocking off Ohio State 85-80 on Jan. 14, they dropped five consecutive games, a streak that started in College Park. That was the game that Kristen Confroy spontaneously combusted into flames, sinking eight  three-pointers in a 24-point, 10-rebound performance. Of course, that pales in comparison to Minnesota’s Rachel Banham, who dropped 60(!) on the Wildcats in a double-overtime Gophers win last Sunday. It certainly hasn’t been a fun month.

The game tips off at 4 p.m. EST and will be nationally televised on ESPN2. For basketball fans, this contest shall serve as a return to normality. It will be devoid of flash mobs, behind-the-back dunks and hoverboards. However, it’s still a reasonably high level of basketball, and even after a horrendous month, Northwestern still has the talent to keep this game close.

Northwestern (14-11, 3-10 B1G)

The coach

Joe McKeown. In his 8th year at Northwestern and his 30th as a head coach, McKeown has over 630 career wins. He was the head coach of Team USA at the 2015 World University games, a team that included Maryland’s Brionna Jones.

Players to know

Nia Coffey, junior, forward, 6'1, No. 10. Coffey is one of the best forwards in the country, averaging 20.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Most of her scoring comes inside, but she can step out beyond the arc every now and then, as well.

Maggie Lyon, senior, guard, 6'2, No. 25. Lyon has been a high-volume shooter for four years. She hasn’t been too efficient as of late (just 30.5 percent on three-pointers in conference play), but this lefty is always one to worry about.

Ashley Deary, junior, guard, 5’4, No. 3. Deary is nation’s best basketball thief (if that’s what we call them), averaging 4.3 steals per game. She’s also 9th in the country with 6.7 assists. On top of that, the Wildcat point guard chips in 13.1 points per game and apparently has 50-foot range (she hit a half-court buzzer-beater against the Terps last time).

Christen Inman, junior, guard, 5’10, No. 24. Inman is not fantastic at any one thing, but she’s decent at everything. She’s third on the team with 14.4 points per game. It’s likely she’ll be guarding Walker-Kimbrough on the wing, which could be an interesting matchup.

Strength

Forcing turnovers. Led by Deary, this team averages a conference-best 10.4 steals per game. The Terps have had 23 and 20 turnovers in their last two outings. What could go wrong here?

Weakness

Frontcourt depth. Outside of the "core four," it’s been a rough year for the Wildcats. They haven’t been able to find a center that can hang with the biggest of the B1G. Nigerian freshman Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had a breakthrough game in the win over Ohio State, but she averages under 3 points per game for the season. If the Terps can get the ball to Brionna Jones, she could have a field day down low.

Prediction

Maryland wins, 77-64.