Terrapin sophomore forward Stephanie Jones (24) goes for a layup as Mountaineer senior forward/guard Katrice Dickson (11) jumps in an attempt to block Jones’ shot. (Emily Morina/ The Left Bench)

Terps looks to open big ten play with a win against the Fighting Illini

Coach Brenda Frese has claimed on many occasions that this Maryland team is a different team then they were at the beginning of the season when they lost two of their first five games of the season, almost eclipsing their loss total from last season.

Frese’s theory will be put to the test when the Terrapins [11-2] take on the first Big Ten opponent of the season in the Fighting Illini of Illinois [ 9-5].

“We can do some really big things if they keep that mentality of being hungry and see that trend of this team coming together.” Coach Brenda Frese said about their momentum going into the conference end of the table.

The Terps have been dominating in the month of December, winning not losing a single game in the holiday season as they are on the heels of their 9th straight win against Coppin State.

In their win over the Golden Eagles, the Terps also debuted another weapon into their scoring arsenal with Greece-native Eleanna Christinaki who transferred to Maryland in January and had to sit out the first half of the season due to NCAA eligibility rules.

“Her excitement from day one is just everything that everybody’s ever wanted, and her having just an amazing game is just something that we all wanted for her” Frese said about Christina’s debut. Christinaki came to play scoring 32 points.

The Terps scoring has continued to improve throughout the season and it shows as six Terps are among the top-15 most improved scorers in the Big Ten with Blair Watson leading the charge at 10 more points a game than last season.

Maryland suffered two losses to #1 ranked and #2 ranked Connecticut and South Carolina respectively at the beginning of the season. But since has been winning on a average of 28.6 points per game, which is good enough for 6th in the country and earns them a number 15 ranking in the nation.

On the other side of the court, the Fighting Illini are coming off a brutal loss to Missouri who falls just below Maryland in the rankings at number 16.

Illinois has not been producing at the same rate as the Terps, posting a negative scoring margin in their first 14 games. To make matters worse for the traveling Illini, they only have won 1 out of 3 games on the road this season, not to mention being winless against ranked teams such as the Terrapins.

The Terrapin’s defense is sure to give the Illini some trouble on the other end of the court as well, as their patented full court press has caused teams to commit season high turnovers in multiple games.

“The defense really opened up a lot of things offensively for us.” Frese said regarding the team’s high pressure defense.

Maryland will look to keep up the intensity and make a statement going into the first conference game of the season Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Xfinity Center.