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Preview: No. 2 Maryland, No. 5 NC State both continue pursuit of mega respect

The Maryland Terrapins may be No. 2 in the nation, but they still have work to do to be considered better than No. 3 UConn and No. 1 South Carolina. The No. 5 NC State Wolfpack, who lost to the Gamecocks by nine, are in the same boat and meet the Terps in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving Day.

Baylor v Maryland
Freshman Shyanne Sellers (with ball) has been a key addition for Maryland.
Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The No. 2 Maryland Terrapins should feel good about themselves right now. They are coming off a three-point Sunday win against a perennial national power in Baylor, who was ranked No. 6 at the time.

The last time the Terps beat a perennial power or a Top 10 team was on Nov. 18, 2018 when they defeated No. 10 South Carolina, a team that was one year removed from its national championship. There is an intimidation factor when you play a team like Baylor and Maryland got past that on Sunday. It’s good for the Terps’ star player and leader Ashley Owusu to have experienced a win like that for the first time.

Maryland should also feel good knowing that the win came without Katie Benzan (illness) and Faith Masonius (illness) and with Diamond Miller not available late. Benzan is the best 3-point shooter in the nation and averaged 12.7 points per game last year. She was a huge missing piece. Masonius is as solid a role player as you will find in the country and gives the Terps depth. And then of course Miller is a member of the preseason All-Big Ten team. So Maryland really could have been more dominant against Baylor if it was completely healthy.

It’s good to be feeling good when you have the incredibly difficult schedule that Maryland has ahead of it. The daunting slate will continue on Thanksgiving Day when it faces the No. 5 NC State Wolfpack in the Bahamas for the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship. The Terps will then face defending national champion Stanford (No. 7) on Saturday as part of the same tournament.

NC State is more talented than Baylor on paper and also played No. 1 South Carolina seven points closer than a loaded UConn team did. Maryland will have its hands full with ACC preseason Player of the Year Elissa Cunane as well as Jakia Brown-Turner, who was an All-America honorable mention last year. The Wolfpack also have a talented Rutgers transfer in Diamond Johnson and impact returners in Raina Perez, Kayla Jones and Kai Crutchfield.

Unsurprisingly, the team with the best offense in the nation a year ago, Maryland, is averaging 7.4 more points than NC State. Terp leading scorer Angel Reese is all the way up at 19 points per game, including a 17-point performance against Baylor that proved she wasn’t just dominating lesser competition. Owusu, Mimi Collins, Benzan, Shyanne Sellers and Chloe Bibby join Reese in double figures for Maryland. Cunane (14.4 points per game) is the Wolfpack’s leading scorer and only she, Brown-Turner and Johnson are in double figures. However, NC State does have a bit more scoring depth than the Terps.

The Wolfpack have the one loss to South Carolina, but have two convincing wins over Power 5 teams in Florida and Kansas State. We’ll see if they can convert the momentum of a four-game winning streak into a victory over Maryland. It would be hard to call it an upset if that does happen because these teams were neck and neck on paper to start the season with Maryland ranked No. 4 and NC State ranked No. 5.

We’ll also see if Miller plays and how effective she will be if she does. She left the Baylor game, limping, in the third quarter. A knee injury kept her out of the Terps’ first four games of the season. Hopefully Benzan and Masonius will be good to go, but Maryland proved on Sunday that they have enough firepower to defeat highly ranked teams when not at full strength.

Game information

No. 5 NC State (4-1, 0-0 ACC) vs. No. 2 Maryland (6-0, 0-0 Big 10)

When: Thursday, Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. ET

Where: Baha Mar Convention Center in Nassau, the Bahamas

How to watch/listen: FloHoops/GoPack All-Access

Key to the matchup: NC State’s defense. The Wolfpack have to make this a low-scoring game. Baylor got it down to the 70s and nearly won. Maryland wants to live in the 80s and 90s and it will be tough to beat it if it gets there. All offenses, even the great ones, are prone to lulls and NC State needs to make sure the Terps fall into some. Owusu is going to be reluctant to shoot threes so the Wolfpack could give her some space, but you have to be careful that she doesn't beat you on those long twos she is so good at. Another thing is that Cunane will have the height advantage over Maryland’s bigs (Reese and Collins) and may be able to disrupt them in the paint.