By: Cody Wilcox
It has been five days since the No. 7 Maryland Women’s Basketball team has played a game, and the Terps are set to host the James Madison Dukes on Saturday Dec. 8 at the XFINITY Center.
Maryland has won eight straight games to start their 2018-2019 season, including some big wins over teams such as South Carolina, Georgia and Georgia Tech. Despite their keys wins, the Terps have had highs and lows like any team during a long season, but Maryland head coach Brenda Frese has continued to see improvement over time.
“I like where we are at. Every day we are improving, so I think that is the most important thing,” Frese said. “Our defense this week has really improved. We’ve been really focusing on taking care of the basketball.”
The Dukes are currently the second-best team in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 6-1 record, trailing only Northeastern with an 8-0 record.
Prior to their only loss of the season against Hampton University, James Madison is riding a three-game win streak on their way into College Park.
Here are three things to know before the noon tipoff between the Terps and the Dukes:
The last time that Maryland played James Madison was on Nov. 28, 2014, in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico.
Similar to a trend with this year’s Maryland team, the 2014-15 Terps began the matchup against the Dukes with an 11-2 run. Behind Laurin Mincy’s 23 points, the No. 8 ranked Terps beat the No. 23 ranked Dukes 80-64.
The 2014 matchup against James Madison was the 500th game for Frese as a head coach in 16 seasons. On Saturday against the Dukes, Frese will look to pick up her 495th career win as she continues her track for 500 wins as a head coach.
Maryland leads the all-time series 8-1 and have won eight-straight against James Madison. The only time the Dukes have walked away victorious against the Terps was on Feb. 15, 1974.
Similar to Maryland, who averages 76.8 points per game, James Madison is able to score the ball. The Dukes currently average 69.3 points per game and maintain a +16.4 scoring margin.
Junior guard Kamiah Smalls leads the scoring for the Dukes, averaging 19.6 points and shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc. Smalls was also voted as the CAA Preseason Player of the Year.
Frese says Smalls could see multiple Maryland defenders throughout the game in an effort to contain the Dukes’ leading offensive threat.
“[Smalls] can score at all three levels, so it’s going to be by committee,” Frese said about the Terps defensive game plan. “Obviously Maryland defense, trying to use our length and our size. She’s really really talented and just making her work for any basket she gets.”
James Madison also enters Saturday’s game averaging 43.7 rebounds per game, which is second-best to only Towson in the CAA, and a conference-leading +10.1 margin in team rebounding. Although the Dukes don’t have anybody that is over 6-foot-2 on their roster, James Madison averages 16.9 offensive rebounds per game.
Maryland must continue to control the boards Saturday, because second chance points to a team that shoots 39.5 percent from beyond the arc could be damaging.
Maryland’s Shooting Frenzy:
The Terps are coming off of a 92-61 win against their neighboring school, UMBC.
Not only was Maryland able to shoot 55 percent from the field, including 7 of 14 from beyond the arc, but every player on the Terps roster scored.
For the Maryland players, they say it was nice to see their hard work in practice translate to floor on game days.
“It’s a lot of fun when we are sharing the ball. That means that the game is falling well for us,” forward Stephanie Jones said.
Junior guard Sara Vujacic agreed.
“Even in practice, like everybody has been good,” Vujacic said. “And that translating to the game is really fun.”
Vujacic had a big game against UMBC, contributing a career-best 13 points to the team’s season-high 45 bench points.
“She’s getting more comfortable, more confident. I just love her confidence shooting the basketball,” Frese said. “That’s an important piece for us, is she gets more comfortable and confident, and helps our team get a lot better.”