On Saturday at 12 p.m. ET, the No. 9 Maryland Terrapins (15-2, 11-1 Big Ten) will seek win No. 502 for head coach Brenda Frese and, of more immediate importance, look to lockdown a fifth-straight victory and more secure status at the top of the Big Ten standings. Currently projected as a No. 2 seed, and the No. 7 seed overall, in the NCAA Tournament, the Terps also can strengthen their case for a higher seed.
Attempting to mess with Maryland’s plans will be the Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-10, 6-9 Big Ten), arriving in College Park after the Rutgers Scarlet Knights snapped their two-game win streak on Wednesday, 83-56.
In Minnesota’s previous two wins over the Illinois Fighting Illini, 83-73, and Wisconsin Badgers, 68-63, the sophomore trio of Jasmine Powell, Sara Scalia and Kadi Sissoko carried the scoring load. Against the Illini, Scalia sealed the Gophers’ victory with a scintillating second half, scoring all 20 of her points after the break. In the battle against the Badgers, Sissoko dropped 20 points for the third time this season, shooting a superb 7-of-9 from the field. Powell, who leads Minnesota in scoring at 15.1 points per game, had 17 points against Illinois and 15 against Wisconsin.
All three sophomores also can shoot the three. While Sissoko has shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range on low volume, Powell and Scalia launch it from behind the arc more frequently, converting 35.2 percent and 34.2 percent, respectively.
Unfortunately for the Gophers, the Terrapins are even better from three, shooting a Big Ten-best 40.2 percent as a team. Even more unfortunately, Minnesota is last in the Big Ten at defending the deep ball, allowing opponents to shoot 37.2 percent.
Look for Maryland’s sharpshooters to stroke it on Saturday. Senior Katie Benzan is shooting a ridiculous 51.6 percent from three for the season and she fires off 7.4 attempts per game. In Maryland’s 103-58 thrashing of Illinois on Wednesday, Benzan swished six triples on her way to a team-high 22 points.
Senior Chloe Bibby and sophomore Diamond Miller also are above-average bombers, with Bibby at 34.2 percent and Miller at 35.9 percent.
All this shooting opens up the floor for sophomore Ashley Owusu to go to work. The Naismith Player of the Year award nominee had 25 points and seven assists in Maryland’s 95-73 victory over Nebraska last Sunday.
The @jerseymikes Naismith Women's Player of the Year award has never been won by a Terrapin @Ashleyyowusu15 looks to change that as she leads @TerpsWBB this season, dominating the stat sheet— The Naismith Trophy (@NaismithTrophy) February 18, 2021
Can she be the 5th sophomore to ever win the award❓ pic.twitter.com/P18sXpTLMz
No. 9 Maryland Terrapins (15-2, 11-1 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota Gophers (7-10, 6-9 Big Ten)
When: Saturday, Feb. 20 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: XFINITY Center in College Park, MD
What to watch for: As indicated by Maryland’s strong 3-point shooting and Minnesota’s not-so strong 3-point defense, the Terps can put lots of points on the board and the Gophers tend give up too many points. Maryland is the Big Ten’s highest scoring team in conference play, averaging 92.4 points per game. Minnesota owns the second-most porous defense in the conference, allowing opponents to average 79.5 points per game. So don’t be surprised if the Terps pour on the points and run away from the Gophers.