Coach long enough in women’s college basketball and you’re going to revisit familiar places.
Over the years, the Spokane Regional has been both sweet and sour for Maryland — from a Final Four trip in 2015 to an Elite Eight loss in 2008.
As fate would have it, the 2008 Terps (loaded with All-Americans Crystal Langhorne, Kristi Tolliver and Marissa Coleman, plus 2006 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Laura Harper) fell to Stanford, their opponent Friday evening.
And the No. 1 seed Cardinal (30-3) is not only the defending national champ, but they’ve also won 22 straight and have outscored their NCAA Tournament foes by the average score of 85-50.
“They can all score it and they flow within their offense,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “For us, it’s going to come down to disrupting, making it hard, trusting our defense. I’ve loved where we’ve been at the last two games.”
Maryland has outscored its foes in the tournament by an average score of 95-68.
“I love where this team is at,” Frese said. “They’re locked in. They’re focused. How they’ve attacked the tournament.”
Defense was the difference in the Second Round win over Florida Gulf Coast, as they held the Eagles to 42 points in the final three quarters after allowing 23 in the first. Defense begins with the “D” junior guard Diamond Miller provides, and the “S” that starts Stops is freshman Shyanne Sellers.
“Me and Diamond can play off of each other on defense, and it really ramps up everybody to get it going,” Sellers said. “When we’re like that we’re unbeatable, so having everybody on the same page is really important for this next game and it really starts with our defense.”
Stanford ranks 25th in Division I in scoring, 34th in points allowed and 11th in rebounding margin.
“They know how to score,” Frese said. “Top 15 in rebounding, top five in blocks. We’re going to have to come out against the defending national champions and put together a tremendous game.”
Cameron Brink (14 points and 8 rebounds per game) may lead the Cardinal in scoring and rebounding, but the engine that fires up this team is First Team All-American junior guard Haley Jones.
“Most outstanding player of the (NCAA) Tournament last year for a reason,” Frese said. “For us it’s gonna be important, every time a shot goes up, to be able to box her out (the 6-foot-1 guard grabs almost eight rebounds per game). And really to have the discipline to box out all of them. They have tremendous length, so we’re not going to be able to outjump them; we’re going to have to be disciplined and fundamental about boxing out their team.”
The two teams met in November during a tournament in the Bahamas, with Maryland falling 86-68. But that Terrapin team looks vastly different.
“Angel (Reese) played just 15 minutes,” Frese said. “Ashley (Owusu) battled the entire game with foul trouble. No Diamond (Miller), no Katie (Benzan); Faith (Masonius) was out as well. I think this team is excited because we’re finally fully healthy.”
Keeping Angel Reese on the floor this time is key, as the sophomore averaged a double-double on her way to being named Third Team All-American. Her key to staying out of foul trouble?
“Just being able to get the feel of the game early — seeing how the refs officiate the game,” Reese said. “Just being able to get my first couple reps up and down (the court) and just to see how the game’s gonna go.”
In Frese’s previous 19 seasons with the team, the Terps are 5-4 in Regional Semifinal games. They also have a history of beating teams they’ve faced earlier in the year come March, even when they didn’t win the regular-season showdown. Is revenge a dish best served cold?
“I think it’s just the perfect game for us. Being able to see Stanford before, and being able to play them again as a healthy team,” Reese said. “I’ve been saying ‘a healthy Maryland is a scary Maryland,’ so, I mean, having this team together at this perfect moment at the Sweet Sixteen again. I think it’s just going to be so much fun.”