For Brenda Frese, the faces change but the goal remains the same: win. With this group, that would mean more than ever before. The 2020-21 Big Ten Coach of the Year has nothing to prove in the Big Ten tournament, but as she goes for back-to-back Big Ten titles, she knows this group deserves all the success her past teams have earned, and then some.
“I’m just incredibly proud of this team,” Frese said. “When you look at everything this team has had to endure this season, just to watch their trust and their chemistry. In a pandemic the discipline they’ve had to have, the sacrifices they’ve had to make and just playing for each other.”
Some of the recognition for those sacrifices has been demonstrated already. On Monday, the Terps received a plethora of conference awards. It started at the helm with Frese winning Big Ten Coach of the Year, the fourth time she was gifted the award. While Frese has piled up awards throughout her tenure, this one hits a little different.
“This one does ring differently on so many levels,” Frese said. “When you talk about this team and this staff and these players, just being so resilient, going through a pandemic, it sits differently than all the rest.”
The dynamic sophomore guard duo of Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu were named to the All-Big Ten First Team, with Owusu as a unanimous selection. Miller and Owusu have been the spark that carried the Terps to the highest scoring offense in the country. Owusu averaged 18.7 points per game and dished out 5.8 assists. Miller averaged 17.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, doubling both statistical categories from a year ago.
Katie Benzan was voted to the All-Big Ten second team. The grad transfer from Harvard shot 51.6% from long range in the regular season which led the country. Chloe Bibby and Mimi Collins each received All-Big Ten honorable mention to round out the starting five for the Terps. Angel Reese was also voted to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team despite missing 14 games with a foot injury.
“Yesterday, with all the awards we received, I thought was a true reflection of this team,” Frese said. “Playing all season for one another. It’s awesome to be able to see the unselfishness. This team has truly been committed about being better each and everyday, you see all the awards and accolades take care of itself.”
With Maryland’s historic regular season now in the rearview, the Terps have their eyes set on loftier goals they want to accomplish as a team.
“We understand the fact that it is a new season. The slate is wiped clean, going 0-0,” Frese said.
The new journey to cut down another net starts Thursday morning in the Big Ten quarterfinals as Maryland takes on Nebraska at 11 a.m. in Indianapolis, the site of the Big Ten tournament.
These two teams met earlier this year on Feb. 14 when the Terps dismantled the Huskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena, 95-73. That game was Frese’s 500th win at Maryland, the most in program history. The Terps offense broke the record for most points scored in Pinnacle Bank Arena where Ashley Owusu led the way with 25 points on 10-15 shooting.
Nebraska, the 8th seed in the tournament, beat Minnesota on Wednesday to earn a matchup against the Terps. Maryland is 16-2 all time in the Big Ten tournament and has four Big Ten championships since joining the conference in 2014.
The 2019-20 Maryland team’s journey was cut short after hoisting the Big Ten championship trophy. For most of Frese’s team, the road doesn’t stop there.
However, COVID-19 shut everything down a year ago and this year’s Terps squad knows nothing is guaranteed.
“We don’t know what the future holds,” Owusu said. “One day we could come in and that could be our last game or practice. The number one thing she [coach Frese] has told us is to not take anything for granted.”