Maryland won't let loss to UConn define a memorable season
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Undefeated in the Big Ten. A second straight appearance in the Final Four. A school-record 28-game winning streak.
It was an outstanding season for Maryland women's basketball team.
Although a loss to Connecticut in the national semifinals ended the Terrapins' run, it did not completely overshadow the success they had.
Playing for the first time in the Big Ten and regrouping following the loss of All-American Alyssa Thomas, a young Maryland team pooled its talent to reaffirm its stature as one of the finest programs in the country. As coach Brenda Frese pointed out after Sunday night's 81-58 loss to UConn, two of the Terrapins' three defeats came against the teams playing for the national championship.
Maryland (34-3) is not yet quite as good as Connecticut and Notre Dame, but overcoming that hurdle is not entirely out of the question.
The Terrapins could be in position to make a run at a third consecutive Final Four.
''I'm really, really excited about the future,'' Frese said Sunday night after the Terrapins' first defeat since early December.
Laurin Mincy was the only senior on a squad that rolled to an 18-0 record in league play before sweeping the conference tournament, making Maryland only the second women's team to finish unbeaten in the Big Ten.
That earned the Terrapins a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Maryland beat previously undefeated Princeton in the second round, then handled Duke before eliminating Tennessee to win the Spokane Regional and earn another berth in the Final Four.
The Terrapins hung with the Huskies for a half, but they ultimately proved to be no match for a team that long ago established a dynasty in this sport.
''As you talk about our talent pool, I liken it to Kentucky men,'' Frese said, ''except for the fact that UConn's able to get every year a top 10 player, but they don't lose them to the pros.''
She can only hope that the sport will soon experience with a bit more balance at the top.
''When I look at the players out there that are starting to go to a lot of programs, just like our kids, (you see) depth in our talent pool,'' Frese said. ''When you look at our game in the NCAA Tournament and you look at (seventh-seeded) Dayton getting as far as they did, you're starting to see some parity that our game desperately needs.''
Three sophomores started for the Terrapins, and three different players averaged in double figures.
Frese expects a similar range in talent next season, when Maryland will field a team with four seniors and valuable tournament experience.
Mincy won't be there, but she's confident that the team she left behind has the potential for greatness.
''Obviously we wanted to come in here and shock the world and get this win,'' she said. ''But I'm proud of how my team competed this game and all season. I can't wait to see what's ahead for them.''