It seemed like just another easy Maryland women’s basketball win judging by the way the Terps walked through the handshake line and off the court after beating Nebraska.
The scene in the locker room wasn't nearly as subdued after the 81-63 victory over the Cornhuskers on Tuesday night. That's where the ninth-ranked Terps celebrated Brenda Frese's 500th win as a head coach.
With her parents and high school coach on hand, Maryland staff hung signs marking the occasion and played a surprise video with congratulatory messages from former players, staff and loved ones.
“The people I've been so fortunate to coach, and to be able to have so many great staff members. The video was very long, so you would think I've been coaching for a very long time. But it was very special,” Frese said.
Frese is 443-120 in 17 seasons at Maryland, where she's led the Terps to one national championship and three Final Fours. She also has been head coach at Ball State and Minnesota and is 500-150 overall in 20 years.
“I haven't made a basket. I haven't got a stop on defense,” she said. “It comes down to the tremendous players and tremendous staff members we've been able to put together consistently over time. That's what that number speaks of, the people who have come together for a single purpose, and that's winning.”
Kaila Charles scored 19 points, eight of them coming when Maryland broke open the game in the third quarter. The Terps (14-1, 3-1 Big Ten) have won two straight since getting upset by Rutgers on Dec. 31. The Cornhuskers (7-8, 2-2) have lost two in a row after winning their first two conference games.
Charles and her teammates emerged from their locker room wearing red T-shirts commemorating Frese's milestone win.
“It's a great experience to be a part of because she's just a great coach on and off the court,” Charles said. “Knowing she's built a standard and a great program, I'm glad and blessed to be a part of it and to learn from one of the best.”
Maryland led from start to finish, but there were moments of anxiety for Frese. The Huskers came back from a 10-point second-quarter deficit to close to 45-43 in the third. Charles then put back Stephanie Jones' miss in the paint to start a 16-6 spurt to end the quarter.
The Huskers later cut the lead to seven, but the Terps used a 15-2 run to make it a 20-point game with 3 minutes left.
“We had drawn to within two and all of a sudden they stretched it out,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said. “That's something you can expect from the No. 9 team in the country, but it was a disappointing way to finish that game. We wanted to play better than that down the stretch and find a way to make that a competitive game.”
Maryland: Charles continues to be the most consistent player, having scored in double figures in all but one game, and Mikesell is living up to her billing as one of the top 3-point shooters coming out of high school last year.
Nebraska: The Huskers held a 38-37 edge on the boards against one of the nation's top rebounding teams, but they continue to have difficulty finishing around the basket.
“We knew they were a good rebounding team, and we knew we had to rebound them if we wanted a chance to win,” Kate Cain said. “A lot of us were crashing the boards real hard, and that's something we can take out of this game.”
Numbers to know
Taylor Mikesell hit four 3-pointers while adding 16 points for the Terps and Jones finished with 13. Blair Watson added 12 points, and reserve Channise Lewis scored nine points in one of her best games for Maryland, which improved to 10-0 all-time against the Huskers and 4-0 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Hannah Whitish and Nicea Eliely had nine points apiece and Cain had 10 rebounds for the Huskers. Nebraska was 0 for 6 on 3-pointers in the second half after going 5 for 9 in the first.