On Friday, No. 4 Maryland women’s basketball (21-8) will return to Xfinity Center for the first time in three weeks. After an unexpected exit from the Big Ten tournament, the stage is set for the real big dance in the NCAA bracket of 64.
In the opening round, the Terps will have a start to their run against a border-state opponent — No. 13 Delaware (24-7).
“We’re finally at the healthiest point that we’ve been with our team all season,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “We’re looking forward to having some of our best basketball ahead which we are going to need against a good Delaware team.”
Maryland has not played in two weeks since its shocking conference tournament quarterfinals loss to Indiana. Only guard Ashley Owusu and forward Angel Reese scored more than four points, the three-point efficiency was lacking at a disastrous level and Maryland looked unlike the team that was once comfortably tearing through Big Ten opponents.
The game went terribly, but the break has treated the Terps well.
“These last two weeks we used to rejuvenate our bodies, but also to get better,” guard Katie Benzan said.
This season, Delaware’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2013 was captured with an impressive squad that has achieved plenty in its conference, including a conference tournament championship.
The Blue Hens’ lead forward Jasmine Dickey is the CAA Player of the Year. Dickey leads the Blue Hens in points averaging 25 points per game, third highest total in the nation. Dickey also leads her team in steals with 59 and averages 10 rebounds a game.
“It’s going to take a collective team effort,” Frese said. “We’re gonna have to box [Dickey] out and we’re gonna have to make her take difficult shots.”
Dickey, however, is not the only Blue Hen who is a double-double threat. Forward Ty Battle averages 13 points a game and leads the team in rebounds averaging 11.5 a game.
“The hardest working team will win this game tomorrow,” Benzan said. “So we have to make sure that’s us.”
Friday’s matchup will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2019 — a game Maryland won convincingly. In every contest, in fact, Maryland has stood out as the hardest working team and the Terps hold a perfect record all-time, 13-0, against the Blue Hens.
Indeed, history favors Maryland. But the journey it’s endured this season could also have a similar bolstering effect.
Overall, the Terps played one of the toughest schedules in the country, playing against current No. 1 seeds N.C. State, Stanford and South Carolina and No. 2 Baylor with the hopes that the schedule would prepare them for March.
“I think all those aspects of the adversity and everything we’ve gone through this year has made us grow and come together … and it’s prepared us for this moment and March,” forward Chloe Bibby said.