COLLEGE PARK — During the most important stages of any game in her high school career, Brene Moseley always had the ball in her hands. There was, for instance, the time she scored 17 points as a freshman in Paint Branch's victory in the Class 4A state title game, one of many memorable performances that piqued the interest of Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese.
The allure of playing for a perennial top-10 program in Moseley's home state was more than enough to persuade her to commit as a junior. The long-range plan at the time was for Moseley to learn under then-starting point guard Anjalé Barrett for a season, then take over seamlessly during her second year in College Park.
A second torn ACL in three years interrupted Moseley's career when she was a sophomore. The injury occurred during a scrimmage in October, and she spent the better part of the next year in recovery and rehabilitation. Moseley's familiar role as a go-to player gradually began to transform, too, with Frese adding highly regarded point guard Lexie Brown last season.
Four games into her college career, Brown became the starter, helping direct Maryland to the Final Four and, this season, an undefeated record in the Big Ten Conference in the Terps' league debut. No. 4 Maryland (27-2, 18-0) won the regular-season title and is the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament, playing its first game today against No. 9 seed Michigan State (16-14, 7-11) at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
"In the beginning, it was kind of tough," Moseley, a redshirt junior, said of the adjustment to coming off the bench. "The mentality behind it is different because I think you have to know there'll be games where I may not play."
Moseley could have transferred but instead chose to honor her commitment to Frese and Maryland, which stood behind her during her gloomiest days. That's why, with five seconds left in Sunday's regular-season finale, Frese called Moseley over in front of the bench during a timeout and gave her a long, congratulatory hug.
Moseley was on her way to a game-high 18 points in a season-high 21 minutes, essentially replacing the foul-troubled Brown in a 69-48 win at then-No. 25 Northwestern to put Maryland in exclusive company. The Terps became the first team to go unbeaten in the Big Ten since Purdue went 16-0 in 1998-99.
They're also the second school to complete a Big Ten regular season 18-0. Ohio State was the first, in 1984-85.
"I told her how proud I was of her," Frese said of the personal moment she shared with Moseley. "We always talk to our team about being ready when your number is called, and Brene just continues to do that. She's stayed the course. She's had great maturity this season and was a huge factor for us being able to win that game. For us to be undefeated in conference play, it takes everyone."
Moseley's willingness to sacrifice individual accomplishments for the betterment of the team underscores the environment Frese has cultivated since taking over in 2002. Virtually all of her reserves would be starters at most other programs, but with maybe the deepest team of her career, Frese has Maryland seeking not just the Big Ten tournament title but also a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Terps are among five teams vying for three of the No. 1 seeds, with top-ranked Connecticut likely a lock to be No. 1 overall. Notre Dame, Tennessee, Baylor and South Carolina are Maryland's competition. Among those teams, the Terps have the lowest Rating Percentage Index (6) and strength of schedule (37).
But the Bears closed the regular season dropping two of three games, and either South Carolina or Tennessee, the top two seeds in the Southeastern Conference tournament, will lose once more before the NCAA tournament field is announced March 16.
The Terps, meanwhile, remain the prohibitive favorite in the Big Ten tournament. They have won 21 games in a row and are the only team with four of the conference's top 30 scorers. Among them is Laurin Mincy, who has a special appreciation for the way Moseley emerged from injury misfortune.
Mincy also tore an ACL for the second time since high school when she was a junior. This season, the redshirt senior is second on the team in scoring (13.5) and back in the starting lineup.
"I've been in her same position. I know how that works," Mincy said. "She's done a great job of helping to lead the team this year. That's everyone. We're so versatile that we're going to have somebody different off the bench that's going to bring a lot of energy. As long as everyone is ready when their number is called during this tournament, it's going to set us apart from everyone."
Note: Michigan State advanced to face the Terps by beating eighth-seeded Michigan, 69-49, in the second round Thursday. Aerial Powers had 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Spartans, who opened with a 22-4 run and led 46-22 at halftime.