The number sounded ridiculous when Brenda Frese was hired to take over the Maryland women’s basketball program as a wide-eyed 31-year-old. Really, 499 wins? Nineteen years later, Frese reached that milestone, matching Chris Weller, who was at the helm for 27 seasons, as the winningest coach in Maryland history.
Frese tied the mark Thursday as her 10th-ranked Terrapins defeated Wisconsin, 84-48. She will have to wait until Feb, 14, when Maryland visits Nebraska, for her first chance to own the record alone. The victory is No. 556 for her career.
“Never in my wildest dreams. I thought 500 seemed you’d have to be coaching for 40 years,” Frese said. “Never did I think I’d be here close to that in this time. But with time comes perspective, and I do think you start to realize just how many games that truly is.”
Katie Benzan made six three-pointers, accounting for all of her team-high 18 points, as Maryland improved to 13-2, 9-1 in the Big Ten. Ashley Owusu was aggressive throughout with 17 points and five assists, and Mimi Collins added 14 points while making her first six shots from the field. Chloe Bibby had 14, and Diamond Miller scored 11 despite missing 8 of 11 shots. Miller added five rebounds and four assists.
“We’re just a team full of buckets,” Collins said.
Sydney Hilliard was the bright spot for the Badgers (4-12, 1-12) with a game-high 20 points. Wisconsin has yet to beat the Terps in 10 all-time meetings.
Badgers Coach Jonathan Tsipis, who worked under Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame for nearly a decade before coaching the George Washington women, reminisced about meeting Frese on the recruiting trail when she was just one year into her career.
“The commitment that she has in our game, I’m not sure there’s somebody in the country that does a better job recruiting,” Tsipis said, noting Frese’s success in both the ACC and the Big Ten. “She’s ferocious on that aspect, and those players always improve when they come here. And that speaks to the level. And she’s had different assistants that have worked their way through. She’s a great mentor to them.
“To do it in two different leagues and consistently year in and year out, it’s what we all strive for as head coaches.”
The Terrapins were frustrated with their 79-70 win at Wisconsin on Jan. 17. The Badgers rallied from 17 down to make the game close down the stretch. This time, Maryland left no doubt. The Terrapins never trailed and sprinted out to a 16-4 lead after barely four minutes.
Tsipis said the Badgers knew the Terps would be “motivated” and could tell they were “champing at the bit.”
The Owusu-Collins-Bibby combination scored 30 of Maryland’s first 32 points.
“It’s amazing. Who doesn’t want to be coached under a ‘GOAT?’ ” Collins said. “Being coached under one of the greatest coaches of all time, it just helps a lot. Learning from all her knowledge and everything about it, it’s just great. And, also, she’s a cool person, so it’s the best of both worlds over here.”
Maryland, the highest-scoring team in the nation, didn’t let up after taking a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter. The Terps shot 51.6 percent for the game and doubled up the Badgers by halftime, taking a 46-23 lead into intermission.
The defensive effort, however, is what most pleased Frese. The Badgers’ 48 points were the second fewest Maryland has allowed this season. The Terps mixed in a variety of presses and switched from man-to-man to zones in the half-court to keep the Badgers off balance. Wisconsin finished with 25 turnovers that Maryland turned into 30 points. Frese called a timeout after the Badgers opened the second half with a 7-0 run, and the Terps promptly answered with a 13-0 burst of their own.
“There’s great pride in the locker room,” Frese said postgame. “We said our defense kind of needed to catch up to our offense, and you’re starting to see, defensively, the trust level being able to be there.
“The more we can make teams uncomfortable where they don’t know what wave is coming at them, great things are in store for us. Thought we just had a terrific response on the defensive end. That’s where we need to build as a team.”
Note: Maryland freshman Angel Reese was on the bench without a walking boot on her right foot for the first time in months. Reese, a heralded recruit, broke a bone in the fourth game of the season. Frese said rehab has gone well and that Reese has begun light running on an antigravity treadmill.