For Brenda Frese, the best part about getting her name in the Maryland book is that she did it with this gritty band of Terrapins.
Frese tied a school record with her 499th win as coach of the women’s basketball team, reaching the milestone by guiding 10th-ranked Maryland past Wisconsin 84-48 on Thursday.
Frese equaled the mark set by Hall of Fame coach Chris Weller, who was at Maryland from 1975-2002. Weller was replaced by Frese, who’s 499-130.
Her 19th season at Maryland has been special for Frese, not just because of her history-making march to 500 wins. It’s because her team has overcome injuries, COVID-19 and the departure of all five starters from last year to climb to the top of the Big Ten.
“When you see different milestones, there’s not another team I’d rather do it with,” Frese said. “I have loved every single moment going through this season. You talk about this team going through a pandemic, and they have made it look so easy.
“I hope we get to reach a lot of milestones as a team, because they certainly deserve it.”
Frese has nine 20-win seasons, reached 30 wins seven times and led the Terrapins to the 2006 national championship. Only field hockey coach Missy Meharg has won more games at Maryland.
Barring a change in a schedule that’s fluctuated all season because of the coronavirus pandemic, Frese can set the program record with No. 500 on Feb. 14 at Nebraska.
“I think it’s amazing,” forward Mimi Collins said. “Who doesn’t want to be coached under a GOAT? Learning from all her knowledge is just great — and also she’s a cool person, so it’s just the best of both worlds over here.”
It didn’t take long for Maryland (13-2, 9-1) to make it apparent that Frese would get No. 499 against the overmatched Badgers (4-12, 1-12). After Wisconsin won the opening tip, Chloe Bibby turned a steal into a breakaway layup to give the Terrapins the lead for good with 19 seconds elapsed.
Maryland made its first seven shots for a 16-5 advantage, went up 46-23 at halftime and took a 64-35 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Katie Benzan led the Terrapins with 18 points, one of six players in double figures. Maryland forced 25 turnovers and finished with a 40-23 rebounding advantage.
Sydney Hilliard scored 20 points for Wisconsin. The Badgers have lost 10 of 11 and are 0-9 all-time against Maryland, including a 79-70 defeat in January.
“We knew that after the game we played in Madison that we would get a very motivated Maryland team,” coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “They obviously got off to a great start.”
It was an impressive performance by a Maryland squad with only eight players.
“This year, without having as deep of a roster because of injuries and everything we’re going (during the pandemic), she’s doing a tremendous job of putting kids in position to be successful.”
Prior to coming to Maryland, the 50-year-old Frese had a two-year stint at Ball State before overseeing the program at Minnesota for the 2001-02 season. Her overall record is a sparkling 556-160.
“I’m not sure there’s somebody in the country that does a better job recruiting,” Tsipis said of Frese. “She’s ferocious in that aspect, and those players always improve when they get here.”
This performance surely won’t hurt Maryland’s bid to move up in the Top 10 after dropping three notches this week.
Wisconsin: The Badgers hoped they righted themselves by beating Illinois on Sunday to end a nine-game skid, but this was a hard dose of reality for a young team with six sophomores and five freshmen.
Maryland: The Terps’ main concern at this point could be rust. They had a week off before playing this game and are scheduled for nine days off before their next outing.
Wisconsin: The Badgers are at Penn State on Sunday.
Maryland: The Terps were slated to play Sunday at Michigan before the game was postponed. So it appears Frese will have to wait a while before getting a shot at No. 500.