The Maryland women's basketball team walked off the Xfinity Center court Jan. 11 with two losses from that day weighing on them: guard Blair Watson's diagnosis of a season-ending ACL tear, and the team's 82-68 upset defeat to Michigan State.
Twenty-eight days and five consecutive victories later, the No. 10 Terps feel they've recovered and are a much different team entering their trip to East Lansing on Thursday for a chance at revenge on the Spartans.
"Watching film on it again, we just looked completely out of sorts," guard Kristen Confroy said. "I didn't feel like we were ever in a rhythm. We weren't playing together. I think these are all things we can control, and we've been doing a lot better job of it since then."
Confroy said it was difficult to handle the emotional response to Watson's injury. The team practiced without problem the day Watson went down, Confroy said, but were under the impression the sophomore might return later in the year.
When they played the Spartans the following day, the severity — and overall impact — of Watson's absence was clear.
Maryland (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten) committed a season-high 24 turnovers against the Spartans (14-10, 4-7 Big Ten), while shooting below 40 percent from the field and below 30 percent from beyond the arc. That led to its third-lowest point total of the season.
Coach Brenda Frese said "a lot of uncharacteristic plays" contributed to the defeat, which snapped a 13-game winning streak.
Maryland has noticed profound improvements as it's built a new run of success in the weeks since then.
"Their response was what you would hope from your team, just coming back and getting back to work and taking care of business," Frese said. "We recognize the element of where we were at with Blair and losing her and the emotions of it, but also respect the fact that Michigan State played a tremendous game and it's going to be even harder up there at their place."
One player who may have been haunting the Terps since the upset is Michigan State guard Taryn McCutcheon. The sophomore averages 8.8 points per game but posted a career-high 25 points and five assists against the Terps.
"We've had a couple games, having one player that really makes them go," Confroy said. "[McCutcheon] as their point guard really facilitates well for them, so we're going to look to keep our eye on her."
Frese said the Spartans' depth makes them tougher to handle than some of the players Confroy referenced. Meanwhile, in the first matchup, the Terps realized the importance of their own depth.
Guard Eleanna Christinaki said the loss to Michigan State emphasized that the team doesn't rely on a star player. Christinaki joked that guard Kaila Charles, the team's leading scorer with 18.3 points per game, is "more consistent," but different players will step up in each game.
"Some games Brianna Fraser will step up, or me, or Kaila," she said. "It's a collective effort."
With their focus on producing a team effort, the Terps believe they know what they did wrong against the Spartans in January and are ready for round two.
"[The first game against Michigan State] was a collective effort that we were trying so much to win and we weren't so connected," Christinaki said. "After a loss like that, we've shown another character in the team and how good we can be together. I think it will be a different game this time."