It's an early season match-up between two powers in NCAA women's basketball as the top ranked and defending national champion Connecticut Huskies come to College Park to face the number 7/8 Maryland Terrapins. It will be difficult to call this a rematch of either of last season's games as the Terps have a healthy, deep, and rebuilt roster and Connecticut comes in without Kelly Faris - who hounded Alyssa Thomas last season - without preseason All American Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis who suffered an elbow nerve contusion in UConn's game against Stanford Monday night and without one of their important players off the bench, Morgan Tuck who will be out 4 to 6 weeks with a knee injury. That doesn't mean the Huskies are devoid of weapons including last season's NCAA Final Four MVP Breanna Stewart, senior center Stephanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, and a freshman guard, Saniya Chong, who I'm told has "in the arena" range. Still, the Huskies are coming to Comcast with a depleted roster of only nine players giving the Terps a grand opportunity to win a statement game early in the season.
Here's what Coach Frese had to say:
On both the men's and women's teams playing UConn so early in the season
Unfortunately we were playing at the same time but we heard that it was a tremendous battle. For us, we got to play Connecticut twice last year. Anytime you have the defending National Champions coming in when they're ranked number one - two top ten opponents it should be an electric atmosphere.
On the possible absence of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis changing the game plan
They continued to be able to go to their bench and use their depth. Last night they got stronger actually. They have so many weapons. A lot of All-Americans on the roster. We just have to have a great game plan in terms of how we're going to defend collectively against their team.
On designing a game plan around so many talented players
You have to play great team defense. They obviously have a lot of great threats. They just score the basketball. They're defending National Champions for a reason. We're going to have to have a great team defensive effort.
On how will this game be different from last season
Going into this season it's nice. We have 14 players on the roster. It's good to have the players back from injury. We have guard depth. We're absolutely going to be able to use our speed and our quickness. We're a different team for sure so we're looking forward to the match up.
On how the presence of the freshmen changes the complexion of the team and the match ups
Our freshmen are doing a tremendous job. They were the difference when we went down to South Florida. Alyssa Thomas only played 10 minutes and those three all stepped up and made a huge difference. All of them are going to play. Hopefully their first game against Connecticut will be a special one.
On having added flexibility with the depth of this season's roster
We have a lot of different weapons that we can interchange. Brionna Jones is going to be able to give us an added dimension that we didn't have in the past. Alyssa we can can slide in different elements - inside and outside. We feel like we can defend them better than we did in the past.
On the lessons from last year's games
We've got to be able to handle the ball. We had way too many turnovers both times we played them. Obviously a lot had to do with our back court and not having the depth we needed. We've really got to continue to be the most aggressive rebounding team. We've got to be able to get on the boards and make a statement on the glass.
On the new rules and how they're affecting practices
We're continuing to help our players defensively. Obviously that's been the biggest adjustment but we're not the only team going through it. Every coach in the country in men's and women's basketball is working hard in practice to be able to adapt to this change.
On whether having them at home this year will make a difference
I hope. Anytime you're at home with your crowd - and I hope we have one of the best crowds we can possibly have - I know our players will be excited to play in this environment. But there should be great comfort in playing at home and hopefully we can take advantage.
On doing anything special to free up Alyssa Thomas
I think the depth we have this year will help. We have an inside-outside game. We have guard play that will let us get a lot of entries into the post. We can go outside. I think that should free her up in terms of all the different weapons and options that we have. She won't be the only one with a bulls eye. When you look at our lineup all five players can put the ball in the basket.
On the need to improve the team's three point shooting
With the new rule at lot more has been geared to attacking the rim. I'm excited that we've been shooting really well from the free throw line particularly with the number of free throw attempts we're getting a game. I think that may be why we haven't shot the three well this year but we have great threats and weapons this year. All of them can put the ball in the basket and at some point that's going to turn for us and be a huge advantage.
On the importance of transition offense
They're really good at mixing up their defenses. That's why you've got to value the basketball and possessions. Hopefully with more depth at the guard positions we'll be able to take advantage of that.
On dealing with UConn's effort to keep a frenetic pace
We're an up tempo team as well. Last year we went in wanting to run even with our small numbers. It a matter of finding the pace and knowing when you want to slow things down and get really good possessions.
On preparing the freshman for the big game atmosphere
A big thing I took from all of them is that they're gamers. I think when you look at what happened to us in South Florida and we hadn't prepared them any differently for their first game. I wouldn't overemphasize this game as being any bigger than any other game so we'll have the same approach as we did the first game of the season.
For those of you who can be at Comcast Center for Friday's six pm tip-off, you can watch the game on ESPNU.