Women’s Basketball Heating up as Conference Play Begins

By Jack Wynn

Maryland’s first conference game was also its first conference win, kicking off Big Ten play with a dominant second half performance against Northwestern on Sunday.

Despite the game being tied with seconds remaining in the first half, a Sheyenne Sellers buzzer-beating three-pointer propelled the Terps to a blowout win. With 17 straight games against conference opponents on their schedule to close out the season, securing a win against Northwestern was very important.

“[We’re] excited to get our first conference win, especially at home,” Coach Brenda Frese said after the game. “It’s super important to be able to set the tone for conference play.”

Maryland plays James Madison before the Terps’ next Big Ten game against Nebraska on New Years Eve. After blowing out Towson on Tuesday, the Terps hope to be riding into their Big Ten stretch on a seven game winning streak. 

Maryland’s Big Ten slate features five games against ranked opponents, something that may prove challenging given the Terps 0-3 record against ranked opponents so far this season. 

“Every [Big Ten] team has improved, it’s the best conference in the country,” Frese said. “There’s not gonna be any easy nights within this league. So, taking advantage of your home as well as once you go on the road are gonna be really important to the success in the league.”

With two games each against #15 ranked Indiana and #12 ranked Ohio state, Maryland will be tested heavily as they strive to regain their formerly secure place in the top-25. However, no test will prove as daunting as their February 3rd matchup against Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes. 

Clark, who is the pacing to potentially become the all-time leading scorer in college basketball history, provides a combination of shooting and playmaking that nobody else on Maryland’s schedule compares to. 

Fortunately for the Terps, the Iowa Game is at home, as are one game each against Ohio State and Indiana. With Coach Frese winning over 92% of her home games against Big Ten opponents since joining the conference in 2014, the fan advantage may be the difference between continuing to lose to ranked teams and becoming one themselves. 

“I think we definitely feed off that energy,” Brinae Alexander said after beating Towson. “It also prepares us for those tough road games where it’s really loud, packed.”

Although Maryland has been playing well over the course of their six game winning streak, they will need to elevate their level of play in order to compete in the Big Ten.

Coach Frese has discussed the possibility of adjusting minutes in order to better fit their game plan. Star Sheyenne Sellers was pointed out as someone who may see an adjusted role to suit the Terps’ frequent second quarter struggles. Besides minutes and gameplanning, a big factor for Maryland’s chances in the Big Ten is the continued development of freshmen on the roster. 

Emily Fisher and Riley Nelson have cemented themselves in the rotation and have been seeing more and more minutes in games. If they continue to improve, as well as other freshmen such as Hawa Doumboya who had a standout game against Towson, Maryland will have the chance to go on a run. 

“[The Freshmen] are working hard, but still room to grow on the floor,” Coach Frese said. “Hopefully these minutes will continue to be extended.”

As it stands, Maryland has the ninth best record in the Big Ten at 8-3. Four of the teams above them have just one loss. Fortunately, with every team having only played one conference game, Maryland’s 1-0 record within the Big Ten is tied for first. 

Maryland has been on the outside looking in of the top-25 for most of this season, something the Terps haven’t done in well over a decade. If they are going to get back into the rankings and eventually go on an NCAA tournament run, they’ll have to prove themselves during this stretch.