After suffering a hard-fought 86-73 loss to No. 10 Iowa on Sunday, No. 8 Maryland (23-3, 12-3 B1G) will to regain momentum against Minnesota (19-7, 8-7 B1G) on Thursday. Junior Stephanie Jones scored a season-high 21 points against the Hawkeyes, continuing her efficient shooting this season.
Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen is in her first season leading her alma mater, and is very familiar to Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. Frese coached Whalen her sophomore season at Minnesota, and Thursday will be the first time both face each other as opposing head coaches.
Look for Thursday to be a bounce-back game from the Terps offensive leader, junior guard Kaila Charles, who finished with a season-low two points against Iowa and shot a season worst 1-13 from the field. However, it will not get any easier for Charles and the Terps offense facing off against a strong Golden Gopher defense allowing the second fewest points per game in the conference.
Minnesota is coming off one of its best games of the season, defeating Penn State on Sunday by 30 scoring a season high 97 points. In order to prevent another impressive offensive output, Maryland will look to slow down redshirt senior guard Tenisha Bell, who is averaging 18.1 points per game- the third highest total in the conference. Maryland will also look to slow down sophomore guard Destiny Pitts, who is also top-ten in the conference in points per game.
All of the Maryland defenders will need to aware of where Bell is on the court at all times, limiting her open opportunities. The forward duo of Jones and Austin will be important rim protectors on the inside, making it tough for the Golden Gophers to attack the basket. As well as contesting interior shots, Maryland must make sure to communicate effectively defensively and rotate out to shooters limiting open perimeter opportunities.
Offensively, junior guard Blair Watson will look to continue her strong perimeter shooting as of late, shooting 58.3 percent from behind the arc the past two games. A little over a year removed from ACL surgery, Watson will continue to be relied on as an important scoring option for the Terps down the stretch.
In addition to Watson, another veteran Terp will look to continue her strong play as of late senior forward Brianna Fraser. Fraser was limited to just 14 minutes against the Hawkeyes, struggling with foul trouble, however, still managed eight points off the bench. Against a very-talented Golden Gophers team, the Terps will need to be offensively balanced scoring from all over the floor.
In its loss to Iowa, Maryland was outrebounded 44-41, which is something the Terps will look to avoid against the Golden Gophers. Junior forward Taiye Bello is one of the best rebounders in the conference. She averages 12.1 rebounds per game and 5.1 offensive rebounds per game, consistently creating second opportunities for Minnesota. Maryland will need to box out effectively as a unit, with guards crashing the glass on every missed shot as well as the bigs inside. Austin the Terps rebounding leader all season, will need to continue to be a dominant presence inside.
First tip is scheduled for 7:00 p.m at the Xfinity Center on Thursday, the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
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