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No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball vs George Washington preview

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No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball dropped one spot in the latest AP Poll this week, but is fresh off of a dominant win over Delaware and looking to continue building positive momentum.

“George Washington is a team that each and every year we’re fortunate to be able to play,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “I think they’ll come in here ready to go. For us, it’s just every time we step out on the floor getting better. And I thought, in our last game, we were able to do that — and now just continuing to build upon those steps.”

The Terrapins and Colonials have faced off four times in the past six seasons, including each of the last two. Maryland holds a 7-1 record in those matchups, with the lone loss coming on the road in 1994.

In its latest win against Delaware, Maryland shot 57.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from deep — both of which were improvements over the team’s recent struggles.

Tipoff for Wednesday’s matchup is set for 7 p.m. at Xfinity Center and can be viewed on BTN Plus.

George Washington Colonials (2-2, 0-0)

2018-19 Record: (10-20, 7-9)

Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti is in her fourth season leading George Washington and was also recently named an assistant coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Under her guidance, the Colonials were Atlantic-10 Regular Season Co-champions in 2017 and won the Atlantic-10 tournament in 2018, leading to an NCAA Tournament berth. Through her first two seasons with George Washington, the team posted a record of 39-24.

Last season, her squad struggled in its nonconference schedule and finished in a three-way tie for eighth place in the Atlantic-10.

Strength

Shooting percentage is one of the few positives so far for George Washington this season, as the team is shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep. Though those numbers may not be the most flattering, they are higher than the averages that Maryland has allowed to opponents this season, and a hot-shooting George Washington team could present problems.

Weakness

Turnovers are a key weakness for the Colonials, and is something that Maryland can feed off of in particular. George Washington averages 20.5 turnovers per game, while forcing just 16.3 from its opponents. The Terrapins will be able to take control and shift the game early if the Colonials aren’t able to take care of the ball.

Players to know

Redshirt junior guard Sydney Zambrotta (No. 10) transferred to George Washington after two seasons at Louisville and is the lead guard for the Colonials, exhibiting the abilities to score and pass so far this season. Zambrotta leads George Washington with 13.3 points per game through three starts, while also averaging 2.5 assists and one steal.

Freshman forward Faith Blethen (No. 23) has burst on the scene this season as a staple in the post for George Washington, leading the team with an average of 30 minutes on the floor per game. In starting the first four games of her college career, Blethen has averaged 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.25 steals. Despite standing at 6’1 and posing a threat inside, Blethan also poses a threat to step out and take shots from deep — going 5-of-13 from three-point range — and attempting seven long-range shots last time out against Memphis.

Junior forward Neila Luma (No. 30) is one of the mainstays of George Washington’s roster, playing in 63 games — starting 59 of them — through her first two seasons. She’s started all four games so far in her junior year and leads the team with 5.8 rebounds per game, while adding 6.5 points per game as well.

Three things to watch

1. Can the Terrapins continue running out in transition?

Against Delaware, Maryland returned to its usual self, forcing 25 turnovers — scoring 41 points off of those turnovers — and scoring 34 fast break points.

“I’d say from learning from South Carolina, we didn’t really run much transition and it kind of stunted our game, because that’s a huge part of it,” said senior Blair Watson. “In practice we’ve been running our lanes, we’ve been getting out — just doing what we do now and actually feeling more comfortable in our transition — running to the blocks, getting the down screens, because before, you probably didn’t see it, but now we’ve gotten more attention to detail, kind of reeled it back in, and getting back to the game that we know how to play.”

The Terrapins naturally play best when they are able to fun in transition and beat teams on the fly. Defense will lead directly to offense, so creating turnovers and succeeding off of those chances are important.

2. Will Maryland start strong again?

One of the downfalls this season for Maryland women’s basketball has been the lack of strong starts. The team never led against then-No. 8 South Carolina and were faced with the task of coming back against James Madison last week.

“I think the number one thing is just we got to come out strong,” said freshman guard Ashley Owusu. “[The team needs to] come out strong from the beginning — Not wait ‘til, you know, second half or whatever. We just got to come out and punch first.”

Maryland did exactly that against Delaware on Sunday, and it certainly worked. The Blue Hens attempted to counter the Terrapins — cutting the lead to just three points under 3 minutes into the game — but a quick 13-0 run knocked the wind of of Delaware’s sails and helped the Terrapins command the game from there on out.

3. How will Maryland battle inside?

The Terrapins started Shakira Austin for the first time this season, against Delaware, and allowed just 12 points in the paint. The Colonials pose a threat due to their wealth of length at the forward positions, but the Terrapins should be able to combat those threats.

“Obviously, our length, were able to kind of hopefully match or neutralize [size in the post],” said head coach Brenda Frese. “We have great size to be able to mix. So, I think it’ll be a great matchup.”

Maryland currently has seven able players who stand at 6’0 or taller, naturally giving them an advantage on the floor and inside. Winning rebound battles, rejecting layups and playing inside will be key as the Terrapins look to win inside during half-court sets.

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Author:

Wesley Brown

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