COLLEGE PARK (AP) — Brenda Frese used the transfer portal to overhaul her roster.
The result is a Maryland team very much to the coach’s liking — a group that can press, force turnovers and score.
The second-seeded Terrapins open the women’s NCAA Tournament on Friday against 15th-seeded Holy Cross, and what they lack in size, they can make up for with skill and athleticism. The winner of that game faces either seventh-seeded Arizona or 10th-seeded West Virginia in the second round.
Injuries and inconsistency plagued Maryland in 2021-22, and although the Terps ultimately reached the Sweet 16, a couple significant players transferred out after the season. Angel Reese became a first-team All-American this year at LSU, and Ashley Owusu went to Virginia Tech.
Frese reloaded with transfers Abby Meyers (Princeton), Lavender Briggs (Florida), Elisa Pinzan (South Florida) and Brinae Alexander (Vanderbilt). Meyers is the team’s second-leading scorer, and Briggs is shooting 44% from 3-point range.
“The transfer portal is, you know, a part of our game, and I think you can see over the last couple of years we’ve had a lot of success within the portal,” Frese said. “Our staff does a tremendous job kind of vetting through it. Where we need to know who the kid is and ... whether they fit our style of play. And that’s really important, being able to score the basketball, being able to run, getting out in our transition game, being able to rebound.”
Maryland’s group of newcomers has provided plenty of support for the team’s biggest star, second-team All-American Diamond Miller.
“It was kind of like, OK, back to the drawing board,” Miller said. “We got a new group of girls and let’s regroup. I mean, she’s the head coach and gets paid the way she does for situations like this because she knows how to always, like, recover.”
Holy Cross (24-8) beat Boston University to win the Patriot League’s automatic bid. Preparing for the pressure that Maryland (25-6) applies isn’t easy.
“You look back to our championship game, and that’s how BU came back into the game,” Holy Cross coach Maureen Magarity said. “We were able to break the press, but then how we got into our offense, we really kind of didn’t really get into a flow in that second half.”
Arizona vs. West Virginia
Arizona is just two years removed from an appearance in the national title game. A No. 7 seed this year will make another March Madness run like that difficult.
The Wildcats enter their matchup with West Virginia on a three-game losing streak, although the good news for Arizona (21-9) is that it has had a couple weeks off to reset since its exit from the Pac-12 Tournament.
“I think it was good for us,” coach Adia Barnes said. “When you’re rolling, it’s not ideal because then you are on a roll and then you have to wait. I think for us, just from my experience, it’s been good. So we’ll see.”
Arizona forward Esmery Martinez, who has started 30 games in 2022-23, played her previous three seasons at West Virginia.
“She’s back on East Coast time, so it’s something familiar for her,” Arizona teammate Jade Loville said. “I think that’s just, you know, even better for her. She kind of gets to see some familiar faces. It’s exciting to play against old teammates, so I think she’s excited to get out there and see some of her friends.”
West Virginia (19-11) is in its first season under coach Dawn Plitzuweit, who took South Dakota to the Sweet 16 last year.
“When you can really score and you’re an offensively efficient team, you can make up for a lot of things. We don’t have as much of a margin for error because we are not that high-powered offensive team yet,” Plitzuweit said. “Maybe tomorrow it’ll all change. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Reality is probably not, that that’s who we’re going to become by tomorrow. So for us, we have to be really good at competing on every possession.”
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