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At 9-0, Maryland women are halfway to perfect season in Big Ten

Despite losing three-time All-American Alyssa Thomas, the Terps are still favored to win the Big Ten. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

It's been 30 years since a women's basketball team from the Big Ten went undefeated over 18 conference games. Fifth-ranked Maryland is halfway there in its inaugural season and showing it's by far the class of the conference after having beaten three of the other four ranked Big Ten schools.

The Terps (18-2, 9-0) face the last of the Big Ten's ranked teams today when No. 20 Iowa (17-3, 8-1) comes to Xfinity Center, and the winner will own the inside track on the top seed in the conference tournament. For Maryland, a win also would mean moving one step closer to matching Ohio State's 18-0 Big Ten record in 1984-85 under coach Tara VanDerveer.

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The game resonates on a personal level as well for Terps coach Brenda Frese, who grew up Cedar Rapids, roughly a half an hour from the Iowa campus. Frese coached against the Hawkeyes once before, winning, 94-83, in 2002 during her only season at Minnesota. Her next stop was College Park.

"It's not even something I consider at this point," Frese said about going undefeated. "I mean there are too many games … remaining and too much great competition. For us, my next focus is on finding how can we beat Iowa. They're a really good team, senior-led team."

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Nevertheless, the prospect of a perfect Big Ten regular season hardly seems unattainable, given Maryland's victory margin of nearly 15 points against ranked teams in the Big Ten. All of those wins have come on the road, too, including most recently against No. 22 Rutgers, 71-59, on Jan. 15. Maryland also beat No. 16 Nebraska and No. 23 Minnesota.

After Iowa, the Cornhuskers and Scarlet Knights are the only two opponents currently ranked that Maryland plays the rest of the regular season. The Terps do not have a home-and-home against Iowa this season; Nebraska never has won at Xfinity Center; and Rutgers has won once in six meetings in College Park since 1989.

The last team to go unbeaten in the Big Ten was Purdue in 1998-99. The Boilermakers went 16-0 on the way to winning the national championship. The conference went back to 18 games in 2007-08 after scaling down to 16 starting in 1994-95.

"It wasn't really a conversation that we had," Maryland sophomore point guard Lexie Brown said. "We wanted to win, of course, and winning and undefeated probably goes hand in hand. We're just really excited that we've been playing so well."

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Maryland's 12 straight victories this season are its most since 14 in a row in 2013-14, when the Terps advanced to their second Final Four under Frese. That team featured Maryland all-time leading scorer and rebounder Alyssa Thomas, whose graduation along with two other senior starters left Frese to lean on a promising sophomore class and redshirt senior Laurin Mincy.

Mincy matched a career high with 24 points in Maryland's last game, a 91-65 win against Michigan in Ann Arbor on Thursday night. The shooting guard made nine of 12 shots with six rebounds and five assists. She also had 24 points against Rutgers in her first game in her home state since coming to Maryland.

Sophomore Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had 20 points for her fourth game in Big Ten play with at least 18 points. The guard-forward leads Maryland in scoring (14.3) and joins Mincy, Brown (12.4) and sophomore center Brionna Jones (12.4) from Aberdeen as the four Terps ranked in the top 30 in points in the Big Ten. No other school has more than three players in the top 30 in scoring.

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