COLLEGE PARK — Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese is one win from making history thanks to a team that continues to demonstrate to the Big Ten Conference there is almost no one who can bring them down.
The No. 10 Terps smoked Wisconsin for the second time this season, 84-48, on Thursday, giving Frese something only one other coach in Maryland history has accomplished: 499 wins, tying 27-year coach Chris Weller.
Frese, in her 19th season at Maryland, has the opportunity to capture her program-record 500th win at Nebraska on Feb. 14.
She hopes this isn’t the last milestone she reaches with this team.
“It is special. When you see different milestones, there’s not another team I’d rather do it with,” said Frese, who has the third most wins among active Big Ten coaches at their respective schools, trailing only Michigan State’s Tom Izzo (636) and Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer (526). “I have loved every single moment going through this season. You talk about this team going through a pandemic, and they have made it look so easy.”
Thursday’s victory ensures the Terps keep their grip on the top of the Big Ten standings, improving to 9-1 (13-2 overall) with less than half of the conference regular-season slate to go. Six Maryland players hit double-digits, led by senior Katie Benzan, who had 18 – more than half of which she scored in the fourth quarter.
The Terps struggled with their 3-point shooting in the first half (4-for-10), but Benzan changed that. All the Terps needed to do in the fourth quarter was placate the struggling Badgers. So, Benzan hit four of her game-high six 3-pointers.
Thursday’s victory was Maryland’s 29th straight regular-season game in which it scored at least 70 points, more than any other Big Ten team, according to the Big Ten Network. No other Big Ten team has hit 70 points in each of their games this season either, as Maryland has.
“We’re just a team full of buckets. All 11 of us, we all know how to score, we all share the wealth. We move the ball very well and we just find each other,” said redshirt sophomore Mimi Collins, who had 14 points. “We love each other so much, so on the court, it just makes everything easier.”
Maryland couldn’t have been more perfect to start. The Terps went 6-for-6 from the field, including a pair beyond the arc by senior Chloe Bibby (14 points) and sophomore Ashley Owusu (17 points) to lead the Badgers 14-4 before the visitors called a timeout.
The Terps talked this season about getting their defense up to speed with their offense. Frese noted her young players showed improvement between the last meeting with Wisconsin on Jan. 17, in which the Badgers played Maryland close, and Thursday, in which the Terps buried the Badgers (4-12, 1-12) from the jump.
Frese marveled during the shooting drills in practice Wednesday that she didn’t have to once remind her players what to do. They’d honed their skills on their own.
“At times against Wisconsin, we had really good defense and then our breakdowns would be with our box-outs. ... That reared its ugly head against Ohio State. That attention to detail, finishing plays, finishing box-outs, has been really important,” Frese said on Wednesday, “and I think the team has taken some great accountability really trying to improve in that area.”
The Badgers improved to hit five of 10 shots by the end of the first quarter. But even as the Terps’ shooting petered off a bit as the quarter wound down, walking out of the frame hitting 69%, Maryland still maintained a lead with meat on it, 22-12. Owusu, dependable as an evergreen, generated almost half of her team’s scoring, with nine points.
Sometimes, a player just takes a quarter into her hands. In the second, the spotlight shifted to illuminate Collins.
The redshirt sophomore forward whirled, battled and pulled up to record eight of the Terps’ 24 points without a miss. Hers was a well-timed glow-up, as Maryland’s production otherwise dipped from its early first-quarter performance.
Overall, Maryland hit 18 of 31 shots before halftime to lead 46-23.
Though the whistle certainly wasn’t a friend to Wisconsin, who got four travel calls before halftime, the Badgers’ shooting – 9-for-25 overall (36%) — was gummed up by Maryland’s defense.
“You’re starting to see, defensively, the trust level being able to be there,” Frese said. “We were able to man-press, zone-press, half-court-man, half-court-zone, double-ball-screen – the more we can make teams uncomfortable, where they don’t know what wave is gonna be coming at them, great things are in store for us.”
But as the Badgers chipped a little at the Terps’ lead to start the third quarter with a 7-0 run, a timeout did Maryland some good. With six points in the paint, off a fastbreak and a turnover, Owusu spearheaded an impressive scoring drive to demolish any of the dents Wisconsin made. With help from Bibby, Miller and sophomore Faith Masonius – who hit a 10-point, 11-rebound double double – Maryland scored 16 points without a response.
When that response came, it was a whistle in the wind: the Badgers managed just three more points before the third-quarter buzzer to trail 64-35.
“You continue to see the character of this team,” Frese said. “Phenomenal response out of it, and that’s what you want to see as a coach, that type of response that they get it. Ultimately, it’s the pride factor for them: they want to play at a high level, and they want to separate themselves.”