Facing a tough schedule, Maryland women’s basketball shows no fear in hunt for NCAA championship

College Park — Maryland women’s basketball is afraid of no one.

The Terps made that very clear by scheduling four likely top-10 teams in their nonconference schedule. Maryland, picked fourth in NCAA and Sports Illustrated preseason rankings, will face South Carolina, NC State, Baylor and defending national champion Stanford, all of which finished the 2020-21 regular season ranked in the top six of the Associated Top 25 poll and will likely be back in the top 10 when the preseason poll is unveiled.


In 2020-21, coach Brenda Frese said often that the pandemic pushed Maryland to improve and ultimately become Big Ten champions. This year, that adversity will come from those likely top-10 matchups, which will prepare the Terps to hoist the NCAA tournament trophy in April.

“It’s what you live for,” junior Diamond Miller said Thursday at media day. “You don’t come to schools like this if you don’t want to play in those type of games. We’re ready to show everyone what we’re made of.”


Maryland steamrolled most of its nonconference competition last season, thrice eclipsing 100 points. It supercharged the Terps’ confidence and propelled them to continue that dominance into the Big Ten slate, where they went 17-1 before rolling to the conference tournament title.

Things will be more difficult when it comes to facing South Carolina, Baylor, NC State and Stanford, which have won three of the past four national championships. They’ll offer the same big, man-to-man defenses that Texas used to take down No. 2 seed Maryland in the Sweet Sixteen last season. But one thing separates this team from its opponents, Frese said: competitiveness. If the Terps do lose, the coach knows her “ultimate competitors” are going to fix the problems.

“We don’t want to be surprised in March,” Frese said. “We want to know in November, December as we go into conference play, to find all the strengths we have and weaknesses to prepare us for the postseason.”

Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese, pictured addressing the media Oct. 7 in Indianapolis, said the Terps "don’t want to be surprised in March" by the level of competition.

Every Maryland meeting and practice is shadowed with pain. No one on the Terps roster or staff has forgotten the Sweet Sixteen loss last March. In fact, the coaching staff reminds their players every single day: “Remember Texas?”

It’s a good reminder, senior Chloe Bibby said, “because that hurts.”

“Every day, we come in and we’re trying to get better,” Bibby said. “We’re trying to make sure those mistakes we made, they don’t happen again.”

That doesn’t mean Maryland will dwell in that defeat. Sophomore Angel Reese, the No. 2 recruit in the 2020 class out of St. Frances, lost most of her freshman season to a right foot fracture. Now, she says she’s 100%.

“We learned from our mistakes. We learned that we can get back and win that national championship,” Reese said.


The Terps return 93% of their scoring from 2020-21, as well as some talented new additions. Maryland also brought back all five starters in 2007, the year after the Terps won the national title.

Last season’s leading scorers Miller and Ashley Owusu, who both played for Team USA at the AmeriCup in Puerto Rico this summer, will once again play a prominent role. Frese called Miller one of her “most improved” in the preseason. The game slowed down for the 6-foot-3 guard, and she’s playing more selflessly.

“I like to drive so I can draw defenses, which means my teammates will be open for a three,” Miller said. “Just seeing the game from a different perspective than I saw last year is really helping me.”

Maryland guard Diamond Miller said the Terps are "ready to show everyone what we’re made of.”

An additional year of eligibility allowed for the return of much-needed leadership from Bibby and 3-point shooting from Katie Benzan. Guard Channise Lewis also returns after suffering a knee injury as a junior.

After Reese’s injury, forward Mimi Collins took over and remained in that role throughout the season, even after Reese’s return. Frese said whether to start Collins or Reese is the No. 1 topic of discussion in every coaches’ meeting and will often be determined by matchups.

“Whatever I need to do help the team win,” Reese said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m starting ... if I have to rebound or cheer or defend to win the championship because it’s bigger than me.”


Maryland loses only two members of last year’s Big Ten championship team: Alaysia Styles, who transferred to Syracuse, and Zoe Young, who Frese announced Thursday would step back from basketball. Young battled through an ACL tear to limited minutes last winter and will remain on the sideline to support the team. The team also welcomes four-star guard Shyanne Sellers, the No. 22 recruit in the Class of 2021, and Emma Chardon from Switzerland.

The Terps host Fairmount State on Oct. 29 in an exhibition match, and will begin the regular season Nov. 9 against visiting Longwood.