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Preview: Maryland and Michigan square off in Big Ten opener

The No. 13 Maryland Terrapins can pretty much wipe the slate clean and focus on proving themselves in Big Ten play. Meanwhile, the No. 24 Michigan Wolverines look like a solid team again after a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament last year.

Loyola University v University of Maryland
Maryland center Shakira Austin takes a shot against the Loyola Greyhounds.
Photo by Tony Quinn/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Maryland Terrapins women’s basketball team (9-2) missed out on two chances to boost its resume in non-conference play, falling to the No. 5 South Carolina Gamecocks and the No. 9 NC State Wolfpack earlier this season.

The Terps now enter Big Ten play without a signature win and will face the Michigan Wolverines (9-2) tonight at 8 p.m. The Wolverines possess the best win between the two teams, having defeated the previously-ranked Syracuse Orange (6-5), but they also have the worst loss, which came against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-7).

Maryland can now choose to look on the bright side of things, knowing that neither of its losses were bad losses and neither were by double digits. The loss to the Gamecocks came in the Terps’ second game of the season, and they almost started 1-2 with what would have been an embarrassing loss to the unranked James Madison Dukes.

Instead, Maryland freshman Ashley Owusu made a game-winning layup with three seconds left to cap a furious comeback after her team trailed by as many as 19 points. If Maryland accomplishes anything great moving forward, one would have to point to that layup as saving the Terps’ season.

Meanwhile, Michigan, which started the season at No. 25, has now seen its fellow Big Ten team in the Indiana Hoosiers rise from No. 24 to No. 12. While it is disappointing for the Wolverines to think that they missed out on a similar rise, the growing strength of the Big Ten conference is still a positive for them. The Wolverines are the fourth-highest Big Ten team in the national rankings behind Indiana, Maryland and the Michigan State Spartans (7-3).

Michigan is led by sophomore forward Naz Hillmon (15.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game), who won Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2018-19. The Terps have the tallest player for either side in 6-foot-5 Shakira Austin, who will do her best to contain Hillmon, who is 6-foot-2.

Austin — who is known for her defense more than her offense — actually leads Maryland in scoring with 13.7 points per game, which is a low average for a leading scorer. That is a testament to Maryland’s unselfishness — it has five players who average double-figure scoring. Many teams say that anybody can step up and lead them in scoring on any given night, but with this Terrapins team that is true of its entire nine-player rotation, not just its starters.

The Wolverines will have their hands full with Maryland’s plethora of weapons. The Terps love getting out in transition and the best way to defeat them is to force them into half-court sets. South Carolina and NC State were successful in doing just that, but those are two elite defenses. We’ll see if Michigan is up for the task.

Here’s a video of the Terps wreaking havoc against the Loyola Greyhounds:

Game information

No. 24 Michigan Wolverines (9-2) vs. No. 13 Maryland Terrapins (9-2)

When: Saturday, Dec. 28, at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Xfinity Center in College Park, MD

How to watch/listen: Big Ten Network/TUNEIN or Go Blue TV