November 20, 2023 

Big Ten roundup: Maryland humbled again, Penn State’s offense is humming and more

Penn State one of the lone bright spots in the conference this week

This week in Big Ten women’s basketball saw the Iowa Hawkeyes lose at home, Maryland drop another blowout on the road and Nebraska lose a tight battle with Creighton for its first loss of the season.

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Here’s your week two roundup of Big Ten action:

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What everybody’s talking about

Maryland’s top-15 matchup with South Carolina last Sunday didn’t end well, losing by 38 points. Head coach Brenda Frese went so far as to say the Gamecocks team they’d just faced was even better than last year’s team that beat Maryland by 11 in the Elite Eight.

Then on Thursday night, the Terps played #8 UConn and lost, 80-48. Two losses by more than 30 points could be cause for alarm, but it’s also important to consider the relative inexperience Maryland’s roster has playing together. Besides junior guard Shyanne Sellers, none of the Terps’ other players really had to carry the load offensively last season. How far Maryland advances this year will largely depend on players like Faith Masonius, Brinae Alexander and Lavender Briggs becoming more comfortable in expanded roles.

Facing the Huskies, Masonius, Alexander and Briggs combined for just 11 points.

Still just two weeks into the season, these losses for Maryland will likely serve more as useful experience come March than anything else — just look at last year, when the Terps lost by 25 to South Carolina early only to put up a spirited fight in the NCAA Tournament rematch.

If (and arguably when) the Terps do find themselves near the top of the Big Ten standings, don’t be surprised if Frese and her players point to the two losses against South Carolina and UConn as a turning point for them, getting the chance to see how much work they still had to put in to elevate their game to meet expectations in College Park.

This caught my attention…

Before the season began, I listed Penn State as a high-upside team that not enough people were talking about. So far, the Nittany Lions are off to a 4-0 start after an impressive 91-85 win over Kansas on Monday and a 16-point win over St. John’s on Thursday.

Carolyn Kieger’s mishmash of key returners and transfers has added up to a successful start, particularly on offense where the team is averaging just over 90 points per game, has the fourth-best field goal percentage in all of college basketball and ranks top-10 in assists per game.

Against the Jayhawks on Monday – a team that won the WNIT last season – senior guard Makenna Marisa scored 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting with seven assists. Sophomore guard Shay Ciezki, senior forward Ali Brigham and junior guard Jayla Oden all scored in double figures as well.

We’ll learn a lot more about this Penn State team on Wednesday when the Nittany Lions face off with USC as part of the Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship in the Bahamas.

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Other notable headlines

Iowa loses to Kansas State

The Hawkeyes having a slip-up early in the season feels unsurprising, actually. It seems to get lost in conversation that the Hawkeyes’ national championship game run last year was about more than Caitlin Clark being an other-worldly talent — she was immensely talented her freshman and sophomore seasons too, and Iowa didn’t make it past the Sweet Sixteen. Arguably the biggest reason for the Hawkeyes’ success last year stemmed from their chemistry. They returned the same starting five from the year before, Monika Czinano was one of the steadiest posts in the country and McKenna Warnock added another threat from 3-point range that opponents had to deal with. This year, Iowa’s mixing in some new faces into bigger roles, and when Clark has an inefficient shooting night like she did against the Wildcats on Thursday (9-for-32, 2-for-16 from deep), there isn’t yet enough reliable scoring around her to pick up the slack.

Nebraska comes close against #22 Creighton

Head coach Amy Williams entered the 2023-24 striving for her group to show more consistency. Last year, the Cornhuskers demonstrated that they could compete with top teams in the conference — beating Maryland and pushing Indiana and Ohio State – but they also struggled to take care of more winnable matchups (see: Minnesota). Nebraska hadn’t faced any notable opponents in the first three games this season, but the Huskers still entered their in-state battle with Creighton on Sunday outscoring their opponents by an average of 38 points. Although they came up short, losing 79-74, center Alexis Markowski scored 24 points and Montana State transfer guard Darian White added 13 points and 10 rebounds.

DeeDee Hagemann leading hot start for the Spartans

It’s still way too early to know what type of team Michigan State will be this year under new head coach Robyn Fralick, but so far, junior guard DeeDee Hagemann has done everything she can to move things in a positive direction. Through four games, she’s fifth in the Big Ten, averaging 19.5 points and 5.3 assists per game. She’s also a ridiculous 12-for-16 from 3-point range so far. That pace won’t continue, of course, but if Hagemann continues to score at a high rate, she could help vault the Spartans up the Big Ten standings.

Notable games coming up this week:

  • Monday: Michigan plays Ole Miss at 12 p.m. ET
  • Monday: Purdue plays Florida at 4 p.m. ET
  • Wednesday: Penn State plays USC at 9 p.m. ET
  • Thursday: Maryland plays Washington State at 11 a.m. ET
  • Thursday: Indiana plays Tennessee at 6 p.m. ET
  • Thursday: Michigan State plays James Madison at 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Friday: Michigan State plays Creighton at 4 p.m. ET
  • Saturday: Indiana plays Princeton at 11 a.m. ET

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Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel

Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

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