The No. 12 Maryland women’s basketball team is eager to make amends for Sunday’s 69-49 dismantling by No. 8 Michigan at the Xfinity Center in College Park. The players and coaches also are motivated by the absence of their coach and her father.
Brenda Frese will not coach the Terps (12-5, 4-2 Big Ten) during Thursday night’s game at Ohio State (13-3, 5-2) as she mourns the death of her father. William “Bill” Frese died Sunday morning after a long bout with prostate cancer, and Brenda Frese returned to the family’s home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to be with her family.
Associate head coach Karen Blair, who will fill in for Frese, said the past few days have been tough.
“We’re all thinking about Coach Frese and her family,” Blair said Wednesday afternoon. “We know how important her dad was and what a great work ethic and great legacy he leaves behind. We’re happy she’s able to take this time to be with her family and to be there, and that’s the most important thing.”
Blair acknowledged that Bill Frese’s death resonated deeply with the players and coaches, and the effects showed during a setback to the Wolverines when Maryland scored a program-worst three points in the second quarter and trailed by 15 points at halftime en route to its lowest output in a game since Dec. 3, 2012, when that squad was humbled by Connecticut, 63-48.
“Sunday was a hard day,” Blair said. “It was a very emotional day before the game had even started. I think it probably took a lot more out of us than a lot of us realized at the moment — trying to wrap our heads around everything. Our job now is to make the Frese family proud. We know what Bill stood for. He was a guy that packed his lunch pail every day, and he went to work. That’s what he did, that’s what he instilled in his children, and that’s why Brenda has built this program at Maryland — to be a family and around hard work. So that’s what our focus is going in there, to honor that legacy and to do that — grab our lunch pail and go do the work we need to do.”
Blair, who had coached at Colgate, North Texas, Southern Methodist, Virginia Commonwealth and UT Arlington, served as the head coach during the second of two exhibition games before the regular season. She said she feels more than ready to lead the Terps against Buckeyes because of Brenda Frese’s mentorship.
“They always say moving that 12 inches over is a big step,” she said. “So for me, it was a great opportunity, but it’s always different. You’re the one doing the subbing, putting the subbing in, and there’s a difference between making suggestions and making decisions. I think that is probably the biggest difference from being an assistant coach to a head coach. Now it gets to be my turn in this game where I have to be the one to make the decisions.”
Maryland has not dropped back-to-back games to Big Ten opponents since 2018 when that squad fell to Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan in an eight-day span. Graduate student shooting guard Katie Benzan said the memory of Sunday’s loss to Michigan should motivate the Terps plenty.
“That last game was disappointing and frustrating, and we’re hungry for a win,” she said. “I think we’re motivated to prove all the haters out there and the doubters that showing, that game wasn’t true Maryland basketball. So we’re going to go out there and just play to our values and play Maryland basketball.”
NO. 12 MARYLAND@OHIO STATE
Thursday, 6 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network