After the Maryland women's basketball team demolished then-No. 12 Ohio State by 30 on Jan. 22, it only managed to beat Northwestern by three Thursday. The Wildcats are in 12th place in the Big Ten.
Those unexpected results illustrated what coach Brenda Frese has been saying all season: The Big Ten should not be taken lightly.
So while Rutgers (17-6, 5-4 Big Ten) doesn't appear a major threat on paper, the Terps remain wary of a letdown against the Scarlet Knights on Thursday given the surprising nature of their conference.
"We need to keep the same mindset that every game is important," guard Kristen Confroy said. "[Rutgers] is a Big Ten opponent that is really good this year. If we have the same mindset that we had going into Ohio State for every game, no matter who we're playing, we're going to be much more successful."
The first true inkling of the Big Ten's depth came when the Terps, amid a 13-game win streak, were upset by Michigan State on Jan. 11.
Despite the loss, the Terps (18-3, 7-1) have stayed on course to remain atop the conference rankings. However, the Michigan State game preceded a narrow four-point win against sub-.500 Indiana on Jan. 16.
The Terps broke out against the Buckeyes in their next contest, but appeared to slumber into their game at Northwestern, lacking the consistency Frese says is their main goal.
"You have to come ready to play, each and every game," Frese said. "Otherwise, you have the potential to get beat."
With a younger team made primarily of players who are receiving their first extended playing time, acquiring that mindset hasn't been easy.
Frese pointed to previous seasons when the Terps had All-Americans, like last year with center Brionna Jones and guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, as different because of their experience. Now, Frese said, the Terps don't have many players who have "been through that grind."
But forward Brianna Fraser, who rescued the Terps with 13 points off the bench against Northwestern, said the team's youth shouldn't affect its mindset.
"Everyone knows [we can't take anyone for granted]," Fraser said. "It is a learning process for some people, but Northwestern was a big lesson for us. We do know that we can't let up and we have to come out harder in some games."
Confroy said it's a day-by-day thing, and the main goal is to take practice habits to games, because they sometimes practice harder than they play, and that can help establish unity.
Rutgers is no different from any other Big Ten team, in that Maryland will attempt to apply its mindset and not look past the Scarlet Knights' position as the conference's seventh-place team.
"I expect them to come out really hard and try to, you know, punch first," Fraser said. "But, you know, we're just going to keep going and punch back."