The Southern women’s basketball team concludes the most challenging stretch of the season when it visits No. 5 Maryland at 6 p.m. Friday.

The Jaguars (2-4) are concluding a stretch of four consecutive road games. They have lost the previous three — against Nebraska, Kansas State and Iowa State — by an average score of 78-43.

“It’s tough right now,” coach Sandy Pugh said Thursday. “Against these top teams you have to do everything 100 miles per hour and maybe you’re used to 45 miles per hour. You have to make the make the perfect shot, the perfect pass, the perfect decision.”

Pugh said Southern has been “really up and down”. “At times we’ve played well in spurts,” she said. “We just haven’t been a very consistent fourth-quarter team.”

During the three-game losing streak, the Jaguars have averaged eight fourth-quarter points and been outscored by an average of 12 points in the final 10 minutes.

“Against Kansas State we probably played as well as we could have, but we didn’t shoot well down the stretch,” Pugh said. “Against Iowa State we couldn’t buy a basket in the fourth quarter.”

On Sunday, Southern trailed Kansas State by just a point after three quarters before being outscored 21-10. It scored just four points in the fourth quarter against Iowa State on Sunday.

The Jaguars should get a boost offensively Friday when senior guard Britney Washington makes her season debut. Washington, the team’s leading returning scorer, had been sitting out while awaiting academic certification.

“She’s ready to go and we’re glad to have her back,” Pugh said. “Having Britney should boost our confidence to some degree. We’ve just scratched the surface of what we’re capable of.”

Washington’s availability has Pugh leaning toward using a fourth different starting lineup in the last four games.

Pugh said she’s likely to start Washington, junior guard Cortnei Purnell, sophomore forward Brianna Green and two freshman guards — Rishonti Cowart and Skylar O’Bear.

Purnell, O’Bear and Green have started every game and Cowart has started the last two games.

Pugh said post player Miaya Crowder is expected to return after a one-game absence to rest a sore knee.

The Terrapins are 9-0 after a 97-47 victory against Loyola University Maryland on Tuesday.

“They’re very good,” Pugh said. “They have no slouches and they come off the bench with more great players. It’s a tough task. This is the type of game that measures who you are by how you compete.”

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.