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Maryland women's basketball preview: Terps visit Ohio State for long-awaited shot at revenge

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The Terps seek to knock off the only team to ever beat them in Big Ten play.

It was a good week for Maryland women’s basketball, and a historic week for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. The Terps beat Purdue on the road and Michigan State at home, with the junior guard notching 41 points Tuesday and 30 more Friday. The 71-point total over two games is a program record.

She might need to keep that level of play up if the Terps want to beat Ohio State on Monday. The Buckeyes handed Maryland its only loss ever in Big Ten play on Jan. 2. That contest was nationally televised on CBS, and the Xfinity Center crowd was as boisterous as it had been all year. Logic says that if Ohio State could beat the Terps on the road, then doing the same at home should be a breeze.

But logic doesn’t decide basketball games. This is perhaps the most important game of Maryland’s regular season, as a win gives the Terps the inside track for a Big Ten title and the top seed in the conference tournament. Tip-off is at 9:00 EST and can be seen on ESPN2, provided UConn-South Carolina (recommended viewing in its own right) doesn’t go all Rutgers-Illinois on us. If it does, you can stream it on WatchESPN.

No. 7 Ohio State (18-4, 10-1 B1G)

The coach

Kevin McGuff, in his third year at the helm for the Buckeyes after nine years at Xavier. He has a 59-33 record in Columbus and a 314-132 mark overall.

Players to know

Kelsey Mitchell, sophomore, guard, 5’8, No. 3. The frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year, averaging a conference-best 24.7 points per game. She overcame a slow start to drop 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals against the Terps. Mitchell is a complete scorer: she shoots over 40 percent from deep, but can also create her own look, drive to the rim and draw fouls.

Ameryst Alston, senior, guard, 5’9, No. 14. Alston was 4-of-17 and scored just 12 points against the Terps in the first matchup, but her season average is 18.4. She has a lot of the same skills as Mitchell; the two also split ball-handling duties and have almost the same number of assists (Alston has 77 to Mitchell’s 76).

Alexa Hart, sophomore, forward, 6’3, No. 22. Despite being overshadowed by Mitchell, Hart has been fantastic since stepping foot in Columbus last season. She put up 12.2 points and 8.9 boards per game last year, and is currently at 11.5 and 7.4. She also has 54 blocks, while Buckeye opponents have just 50 this year.

Shayla Cooper, junior, forward, 6’2, No. 32. Cooper has come off the bench in all 10 conference games thus far, but is the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.2 ppg this year. The Sixth Player of the Year race is pretty much between her and Brene Moseley. Cooper played at Georgetown for all of two games before transferring to Ohio State.

Strength

Forcing turnovers. Ohio State’s turnover margin is +4.3, and it was +7 in the win at Maryland. Mitchell, Alston, Cooper and Cait Craft (Aaron’s younger sister) each average at least a steal per game.

Weakness

Rebounding. The Buckeyes have a -3.6 average margin on the boards in conference play, and the Terps are one of the best rebounding squads in the country. Last time out, Maryland won the rebounding battle 38-35, but Shayla Cooper seemed to have her way on the glass before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. The onus will be on Brionna Jones to crash the boards all game long.

Prediction

Maryland wins, 83-81. Why not?