Heading into the NCAA Tournament, the 2021-22 season had been a tough one for the Maryland women’s basketball team, relatively speaking.

Maryland entered the tournament at 21-8 overall and 13-4 in the Big Ten, marks that qualified as steps down from recent years. The Terps had lost a total of 12 games and six league contests during the previous three seasons, but this year was full of challenges, thanks to injuries and an improved Big Ten.

However, after wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament against Delaware and Florida Gulf Coast, Maryland is in the Sweet 16 with a date against Stanford in Spokane, Wash., on March 25 at 9:30 p.m. EST. The Cardinal won the national championship last year and followed that up with a 30-3 campaign that included Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles.

Maryland standout sophomore forward Angel Reese likes where her team stands entering its battle against the Cardinal. She compared her Terps squad to the 2014-15 iteration, which lost in the ACC tournament quarterfinals to North Carolina before making a run to the Final Four. This year’s team lost to Indiana in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals before the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m so excited. I’ve been dreaming about this, I’ve been thinking about this so much, even talking to [head coach Brenda Frese] about her 2014 team that lost in the ACC tournament but then came to Spokane and got to the Final Four, so that’s our plan,” Reese said on Glenn Clark Radio March 25. “We’re just going to take it one day at a time. … Stanford’s a really good team, well-oiled machine. It’s going to be a tough game, but I think we’ll come out on top.”

It was a grind to get to this point. After a 95-89 loss at Ohio State Jan. 20, the Terps were 12-6 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten, unfamiliar territory for a Maryland program that had largely dominated the conference since joining ahead of the 2014-15 season.

But the overall record was a bit deceiving. The Terps lost to Stanford and NC State, now the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the AP top-25 poll, during a Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas. They lost again on the road a couple weeks later at No. 1 South Carolina.

Plus, the Big Ten had gotten better. Indiana, Michigan, Maryland and Ohio State finished the regular season ranked Nos. 11-14 in the country, and each team is now in the Sweet 16. The Terps lost to the Hoosiers, Wolverines and Buckeyes as part of that 4-3 start in league play.

“The Big Ten has been one of the toughest conferences in the country,” Reese noted.

Finally, it was a bit of a battle fielding a healthy team. Graduate guard Channise Lewis has been out all year due to a knee injury. Junior guard Diamond Miller missed 10 of the Terps’ first 12 games. Junior guard Ashley Owusu missed time late in the year due to an ankle sprain and illness. Swiss Army knife Faith Masonius, a junior, suffered a torn ACL in early January.

Now the Terps are healthy, sans Lewis and Masonius.

“A healthy Maryland is a scary Maryland,” Reese said. “Being able to see Stanford already in November when we did see them, we weren’t a healthy team. Just being able to have the opportunity to see them again with a team that’s healthy and I think we’re the underdogs, so we have nothing to lose, honestly.”

Reese leads a potent offensive attack, as the Terps average 79.2 points per game. Maryland scored 102 points against Delaware in the NCAA Tournament and 89 in the second round against FGCU. Five scorers are averaging double-digit points for the Terps this year: Reese (17.5), Owusu (14.7), Miller (13.2), graduate forward Chloe Bibby (12.0) and graduate guard Katie Benzan (10.6).

The 6-foot-3 Reese, who earned first-team All-Big Ten and third-team All-American honors this year, is a beast on the boards. The St. Frances graduate is averaging 10.7 rebounds per game, second in the Big Ten behind Kendall Bostic of Illinois (11.4).

“Sometimes I just get out of the way and just rebound the missed shots and just let them do their thing,” Reese said of her high-scoring teammates. “They’ve been rolling. I’ve been letting them roll. When it’s my chance to go, I go. We’re rolling right now.”

Reese credits her mother, also named Angel, for her tenacity on the boards. The elder Angel played for UMBC from 1988-1992 and is in the UMBC Athletics Hall of Fame. She is fifth in program history in points (1,390) and third in rebounds (932).

“That’s where I get my rebounding from,” Reese said. “… She’s gotten me to that point of being able to be a great rebounder. She was aggressive in the paint as well, so that’s kind of where I get it all from.”

For more from Reese, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Zach Bland/Maryland Athletics

Luke Jackson

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