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Maryland knows Texas has to 'stop our offense.' Can the Longhorns rise to that challenge?

Texas coach Vic Schaefer looks on as Kyra Lambert defends against Oklahoma State's Lauren Fields at the Erwin Center last month. UT is allowing 62.7 points per game.

Truth be told, Vic Schaefer would probably prefer it if the only Longhorns running this weekend were Texas Relays entrants.

On Sunday night, Texas will meet Maryland at the Alamodome for a third-round battle in the NCAA Tournament. The Terrapins own the nation's most dangerous offense. 

If the Longhorns are to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 2016, Schaefer believes the defense must lead the way. UT's first-year coach has said many times this season that his team is not equipped to win a track meet. He reiterated that on Friday.

"The formula doesn't change for us," Schaefer said. "When we get into a running match and it's 100-98, we're going to lose. We're not going to win any game when we give up 90 or 100 points."

How Maryland women's basketball ranks

Ranked seventh in The Associated Press' most recent poll, Maryland is coming off a 100-64 blowout of Alabama in the second round. That was the seventh 100-point performance of the Terps' 28-game season.

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Maryland (26-2) is averaging a nation-leading and school-record 91.8 points. Iowa, which ranks second nationally, entered its 92-72 loss to UConn on Saturday with an average of 86.6 points.

For comparison's sake, Texas is scoring at a 70.3 clip. Since the 1990-91 season, Texas has twice averaged more than 80 points.

Maryland has six players posting double-digit scoring totals. Graduate transfer Katie Benzan has emerged as one of the top 3-point shooters in college basketball. All-America guard Ashley Owusu is scoring 18.1 points per game while also distributing the fourth-most assists in the country.

Can Longhorns stop Maryland's defense?

Texas has to "stop our offense — that's the main thing," Terps senior Chloe Bibby said. "Everyone's gone on about their defense, which I'm sure is great, but you win the game by putting the ball in the hole."

Maryland's worst offensive effort this season came in a 62-50 win over Northwestern in late February. Coincidently, Texas is giving up 62.7 points per game.

There are 116 teams allowing fewer points than Texas. The Longhorns, though, have used an aggressive approach to become one of only four programs that has forced 550 turnovers. Charli Collier earned a spot on the Big 12's all-defensive team, and Schaefer has argued that guard Celeste Taylor also should have received those accolades.

More:Golden: Taylor's emergence will take heat off top weapon Collier, Texas women

Only six of UT's 29 opponents exceeded their season-long scoring averages against Texas. That number dips to once over the past 11 games, and Iowa State wouldn't have met its average of 77 points had the Longhorns and Cyclones not needed overtime to decide their game at the Big 12 Tournament.

Texas has already played eight games against four of the top 25 scoring offenses. The Longhorns are 4-4 in those contests. But Texas held No. 5 Baylor (82.6), No. 20 Iowa State, No. 22 Drake (76.4) and No. 24 Texas A&M (75.8) to an average of 67 points. In a 71-62 win over UCLA on Wednesday, Texas limited the No. 69 scoring offense to 14 first-half points.

"We're embracing every challenge, and we're doing it with a smile," Texas point guard Kyra Lambert said.

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If needed, could Texas (20-9) keep up offensively with the Terrapins? It's conceivable. Collier, a 6-foot-5 All-American, will be considered the best player on the court Sunday. Taylor, Lambert, Joanne Allen-Taylor and Audrey Warren have all scored at least 16 points in a 2021 tournament game.

Texas topped 100 points in its wins over North Texas and Drake this season. Those two teams ended up being ranked 188th and 254th among the 336 Division I teams in scoring defense. At 69.1 points per game, Maryland ranks 248th.

Still, 100 points is not a goal for Texas. The Longhorns want Sunday's score to remain low. 

"The thing that we're going to focus on is just playing Texas basketball, and that starts on the defensive end," Lambert said. "That's what we're going to do is we're going to focus on locking up the defensive end, and our offense will flow from that."