A lot of the drama was gone early during Maryland’s impressive 111-93 home win against Iowa Feb. 23. The Terrapins racked up 41 points in a torrid first quarter to open a big lead.
But the first-quarter shocker — other than Maryland shooting 8-of-9 from 3-point range during the frame — was that two of those points came from St. Frances graduate Angel Reese, who hadn’t played since early December after breaking her right foot.
In her first game appearance since Dec. 3, Reese played a bit part in the big Big Ten win that improved No. 8 Maryland to 17-2 overall and 13-1 in the conference. The highly touted Reese finished with eight points on 2-of-2 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from the line. She added three rebounds, an assist and a block in 12 minutes and earned the growing admiration of her team.
“It was exciting,” said point guard Ashley Owusu, who had 24 points and 12 assists. “She has been progressing really well. I know the type of person she is, and she was ready to get back and get playing with us. I was happy for her.”
Head coach Brenda Frese had been getting regular questions about a possible Reese return this season since Reese’s boot came off a couple of weeks ago. The pandemic rules that will allow an extra year of NCAA eligibility for athletes means if Reese was healthy enough there was no risk for her wasting a full season by playing only part of this one.
Maryland was originally slated to host Iowa in January, but the game was postponed by the Hawkeyes and set up the Terrapins’ busy stretch drive.
“It has been hard in the sense that we don’t have a lot of practices,” Frese explained. “Right now, we’re just in a slew of games. She was able to have her first full-contact in practices yesterday and she looked phenomenal. The X-rays [show] she is 100 percent healed. We wanted to kind of test the waters today if it presented itself. We’re not going to be able to practice tomorrow after this physical of a game.”
Reese entered the game for Diamond Miller at the 3:26 mark of the first period and had her first rebound 26 seconds later. At the 1:31 mark, she was fouled and canned two free throws to push Maryland’s lead to 36-15.
Reese took a seat to start the second quarter and re-entered with 4:07 left before halftime. She got her first bucket at 3:26, with Owusu finding her with a bullet pass in traffic and Reese finishing with a reverse lay-up to make the score 59-40.
“I thought her energy was great,” Frese added. “Just to be able to have that energy and depth and be able to send waves.”
Frese and her staff had to get a look at Reese in practice Feb. 22 to make sure this was a possibility. The last few weeks the coach had been targeting a return by postseason play. Reese has been a familiar figure for those who have watched the Terrapins even since the injury.
She was incredibly active and excitable at the end of the Maryland bench, just champing at the bit to be back on the court with her teammates. Even the heavy boot on her foot didn’t seem to slow her gyrations on the sideline and coming onto the court in timeouts to celebrate.
“She has just been tremendous all the way from when she had the injury and not feeling sorry for herself,” Frese said.
Reese went down in the fourth game of the season against Towson. She was averaging 13.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and shooting 57 percent from the field at the time. Her athleticism and versatility was a key part of the team’s schemes at both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-3 Reese, Owusu and Miller are long-armed, interchangeable parts, particularly defensively and they also often overlap responsibilities inside with Chloe Bibby and Mimi Collins because of their length.
Reese was Big Ten Freshman of the Week after scoring 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots in her first collegiate game, a 94-72 season-opening win against Davidson. She followed with a 15-point effort against No. 24 Missouri State, 16 in a win against No. 14 Arkansas and then two against Towson, suffering the right foot fracture early in the game.
The swing guard/forward was the consensus No. 2 overall recruit in the class of 2020 after her standout career at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, where she averaged 18 points, 20 rebounds and five assists during her career. She was the The Baltimore Sun’s Player of the Year as a junior and a senior. ESPN had her rated the No. 1 wing in the country as a senior.
She’s the start of a Reese recruiting rampage at Maryland, too, her brother Julian, becoming a Terrapin next season, as well.
Ironically, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, the likely Big Ten Freshman of the Year, also had a big game despite Iowa’s lopsided loss. Clark scored 34 points, hitting nine 3-pointers, the same number Maryland’s Katie Benzan hit en route to a school single game record and a team-high 29 points.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics