When the No. 12 Maryland Terrapins (6-1, 2-0 Big Ten) meet the No. 19 Indiana Hoosiers (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) at 7 p.m. ET Monday night it will be a battle of Maryland’s offense versus Indiana’s defense.
Airing live on ESPN2, the game features the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation (Maryland) going against the No. 15 scoring defense (Indiana). The Hoosiers hold the edge in scoring margin by 5.1 points.
The teams enter the matchup having played similarly competitive schedules but Maryland, as athletic as any team in the country, has 3-point specialist Katie Benzan, who has just been on fire from distance and added depth.
A graduate transfer from Harvard, Benzan is 27-of-51 (52.9 percent) from deep while Chloe Bibby, a transfer from Mississippi State, has helped out with a 16-of-43 (37.2 percent) effort.
Maryland head coach Brenda Frese is looking smart for bringing on those two to replace Taylor Mikesell and Shakira Austin, who transferred to Oregon and Ole Miss, respectively. But Benzan and Bibby will have have to step up even more with Maryland’s star freshman recruit Angel Reese still out with a foot fracture.
At its core, Maryland wants to beat teams with athleticism. When point guard Ashley Owusu and wing Diamond Miller can get out in transition and make things happen, the Terps are at their best. Owusu and Miller lead Maryland with 18.4 points and 17.9 points, respectively.
The Terps are 1-1 against ranked teams with a win over the No. 13 Arkansas Razorbacks (Nov. 29) and a loss to the No. 25 Missouri State Lady Bears (Nov. 28), and they have had to work hard for their two Big Ten wins. Owusu scored 34 points to help Maryland fend off the pesky Penn State Nittany Lions in the team’s most recent contest on Dec. 31.
Highlights: Owusu comes up big for Terps in Happy Valley
Indiana was picked to win the Big Ten by both the conference’s coaches and media, while Maryland was picked by the coaches to finish second and by the media to finish third. The Hoosiers have since lost to No. 10 Kentucky on Dec. 6 and against a solid Tennessee Lady Volunteers team on Dec. 17, leaving them hungry to beat a ranked team.
A major upside for Indiana is the presence of a back-to-the-basket post player leading the way in scoring. That’s Mackenzie Holmes, who averages 16.3 points per contest. She’ll likely be going up against Maryland’s Mimi Collins who, like Holmes, is 6’3” and has been able to step up in key moments. For instance, Collins added 22 much-needed points in Maryland’s narrow win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Dec. 14.
After Holmes, Indiana’s star guard tandem of Grace Berger and Ali Patberg also average double-figure scoring, but they’ll need to get hot to counter whatever Owusu and Benzan have to offer.
Meanwhile, 6-foot-3 forward Aleksa Gulbe has upped her game this year and adds to the Hoosiers’ toughness in the frontcourt alongside Holmes.
No. 19 Indiana Hoosiers (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) vs. No. 12 Maryland Terrapins (6-1, 2-0 Big Ten)
When: Monday, Jan. 4. at 7 p.m. ET
Where: XFINITY Center in College Park, MD
How to watch/listen: ESPN2/Radio: WHCC 105.1 FM (Bloomington, IN)
Key to the matchup: Overall 3-point shooting. A high-scoring game will favor Maryland and a low-scoring one will favor Indiana. The 3-point battle in particular will be key because Maryland takes more threes, but not by much (23 to 19), and is shooting at a much better percentage than Indiana (42.2 percent to 27.1). So, the Hoosiers will want to avoid those high 3-point attempt numbers in this one.
Reason to watch: Maryland is hungry to defeat the team that was picked to replace it atop the Big Ten this year, while Indiana is hungry to defeat a ranked team and prove itself on a national stage.