The Maryland women’s basketball team completed its final practice at Comcast Center on Friday afternoon before boarding a bus to the airport for a flight to Louisville, where the fourth-seeded Terrapins will play top-seeded Tennessee on Sunday in the round of 16 at KFC Yum! Center.
During portions of the workout, Coach Brenda Frese had the Volunteers’ adopted fight song “Rocky Top” blaring over the public-address system to simulate the noise anticipated for the showdown against the eight-time national champions. Tennessee’s campus is located less than four hours from Louisville, and a hearty turnout of Volunteers fans is expected.
“Anything that works,” Frese said. “We play three freshmen, so maybe they haven’t heard ‘Rocky Top,’ but just to prepare for that element. We had our Maryland fight song as well so they’ll know both bands are going to be playing and just how loud the environment is going to be.”
The freshmen to whom Frese was referring are starting point guard Lexie Brown, starting center Brionna Jones and reserve guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Brown said she is plenty familiar with “Rocky Top” because of her friendship with Georgia Tech freshman guard Kaela Davis, who originally committed to Tennessee.
“It was Tennessee all day every day at her house,” said Brown, selected to the ACC all-freshman team.
But at least one senior, Alicia DeVaughn, had a puzzled expression when “Rocky Top” blared throughout Comcast Center.
“Well one, I never heard of that song, and I didn’t know what that was that was playing,” DeVaughn said. “But I kind of figured there was going to be some loud music because normally when we go away, we do it for Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, so I kind of figured it was going to be that type of atmosphere.
Maryland (26-6) is coming off a 69-64 victory over Texas in the round of 32 Tuesday night at Comcast Center. Alyssa Thomas scored all of her game-high 16 points in the second half and added 11 rebounds and four assists in the final home game of her career. DeVaughn chipped in with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Terrapins are making their sixth trip to the Sweet 16 and third in a row in 12 seasons since Frese arrived in College Park. Last season, they lost to Connecticut, 70-56, in the round of 16 in Bridgeport, Conn. The year before that, Maryland advanced to the region finals before losing to Notre Dame, 80-49.
“Obviously we’re really excited and ready to get going against a really talented Tennessee team,” Frese said. “We practiced extremely hard, and now we’re ready to be able to get down there.”