The Maryland women's basketball team faces the toughest test of its season yet when it takes on the No. 2 Connecticut Huskies on the road Monday night.
The Terps will play UConn as part of the Jimmy V Women's Classic for cancer research. It's an event that has extra meaning for Maryland head coach Brenda Frese, whose own son Tyler was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2010.
It means a lot, there's no question when we got the invite that we knew we wanted to play in it, said Frese. Our family is one that's directly impacted, but the fact that we can play a game to bring exposure is really important. We're fortunate to be a part of it.
Maryland will face a UConn squad that Frese said she thinks is the deepest team they've had in years. It's a direct contract to the Terps, who are down to just eight players after Laurin Mincy became the third Maryland player to tear her ACL this season during the game against Nebraska last Wednesday.
Her team might be lacking in depth, but Frese knows she still has a lot of talent on her squad, including Tianna Hawkins, whose averaging 19.8 points a game so far this season on nearly 70% shooting from the floor.
She's been sensational. You talk about her progression from when she came out of high school ranked the 125th best player to where she is now as a senior, leading the country in field goal percentage, said Frese.
The loss of Mincy will also put more pressure on junior Alyssa Thomas, the reigning ACC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American last season.
I think for Alyssa, this could be her greatest season in terms of her display of leadership and what she's going to be asked to carry, said Frese. She's shown she's more than capable of it, she wants the responsibility. I know she's going to do everything she can to help this team.
Maryland is typically the dominant team on the boards and in size in its games, but the Huskies, who are known as much for their guard play as their inside play, will provide a unique challenge.
You've got to try and find a way to slow them down, especially with the way they run and the depth and the pressing that they have going on, said Frese. The way we've been able to defend with our size, we have great length inside as well. We have to make them take more difficult shots.
A UConn trip to College Park is already planned for next season, but Frese said she'd love to see this match-up go beyond just these two years. For now, the Terps will focus on regrouping from the loss of Mincy and putting up their best fight in Hartford Monday night.