With just over two minutes to go in the game and Maryland already up 23, Zoe Young caught the ball and lined up for a three-pointer from the right wing as the shot was nothing but net.
When the Terps bench saw the ball reach the back of the net, coaches and players both left their seats in excitement.
It was a celebration for a player who rarely sees the floor getting an opportunity. It also represented a celebration of the culmination of the sacrifices and adversity the Terps faced throughout the season in order to cut down the nets in Indianapolis.
“This is going to be one that I remember for a lifetime,” head coach Brenda Frese said in an emotional postgame interview.
Maryland dominated from start to finish in the Big Ten championship, the teams seventh straight appearance in the game, continuing the season trend of annihilating conference opponents in the 104-84 win.
The Terps captured a second-straight Big Ten championship and their fifth since they entered the league in 2014. The Terps lost just one game to a conference opponent this season when Ohio State upset them in January. Since then, Maryland has won thirteen straight games as they head into the NCAA tournament.
The Terps came out on a mission on Saturday, shooting 55% from three in the first quarter and ending the period on a 7-0 run to gain an 11-point advantage after the first frame. That hot shooting continued as Maryland entered the break up by 18 points. Maryland’s defense gave them a boost as well, stifling the Hawkeyes No. 2 scoring offense in the country.
The dismantling continued in the second half as Maryland dominated inside, outscoring the hawkeyes, 50-32, in points in the paint. The Terps 104 points is the most ever scored in a Big Ten title game.
One year ago, this is where Maryland’s season ended. While they won the tournament championship, the postgame celebration was one of the last moments that group spent together as the NCAA tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. However, this year’s team has more chapters to write in what has already been an illustrious, historic ride.
“We’ve really valued every time we could get on a court because we had it taken away from us a year ago,” Frese said. “We’re very grateful anytime we could get on a court to have a practice or play a game.”
No starters from last year’s team returned. What many thought would be a rebuilding year was anything but. Watching this team, no one would know that this group had not played a game together prior to this season. Nor would anyone know that the first time they met was over zoom and could not spend as much time together in the offseason due to the ongoing pandemic.
“It feels special,” Owusu said. “It felt special last year and it feels special this year to be able to come in with basically a whole new team.”
None of that matters when everyone buys in the way this team has. The selflessness Frese’s group plays with allowed the Terps to become the top offense in the country with six players averaging double figures. That was on display against Iowa on Saturday.
Nine players entered the scoring column, including five in double figures, in what was a balanced attack for the Terps. Chloe Bibby led the way with 21 points, while Mimi Collins chipped in 17. Diamond Miller had 15 against Iowa and was named the Big Ten Tournament Most Valuable Player.
“Every time I step on the court I play my hardest,” Miller said. “This was just another game for me and I’m happy we won.”
The commitment the players displayed stems from Frese’s belief in them and willingness to push her players to be better. Frese was rewarded for the job she’s done this year when she received ESPN’s National Coach of the Year earlier this week.
Maryland will enter the NCAA tournament with one of its best teams in years and the top scoring offense in the country.
Coming into the Big Ten tournament, the Terps were projected to be a No. 2 seed and No. 6 overall. While the Terps won’t find out what seed they are or who they play until Monday night, they know their resume speaks for itself.
“I love where this team is at right now,” Frese said. “I wouldn’t want to play us. Regardless of whatever that number is, we know the body of work that we’ve put in to be ready for what lies ahead.”