Jahari Long following Willard from Seton Hall to Maryland

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Guard Jahari Long is transferring from Seton Hall to Maryland, following in the footsteps of coach Kevin Willard.

The Terrapins hired Willard following the end of last season. They announced the signing of the 6-foot-5 Long on Monday. Long played two seasons under Willard for Seton Hall.

He played only five games last season before a right knee injury ended his season. Long had surgery in December. He’s expected to be back at full strength for 2022-23.

“Coach Willard knows my history and I appreciate him welcoming me to the team at Maryland,” Long said. “He has pushed me to improve and stayed loyal to me over the years and I appreciate that. Now, I’m ready to show the Terp fans my skills as a guard and help this team win.”

Maryland losing top scorers Owusu, Reese to transfer portal

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland is losing Angel Reese and Ashley Owusu – the team’s top two scorers this past season – to the transfer portal.

Owusu announced her intention to enter the portal Tuesday on social media. A team spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday night that Reese had entered the portal as well.

The departures shake up the Maryland roster after the Terrapins reached the Sweet 16 this year. The Terps were limited by injuries after entering the season ranked No. 4 in the nation.

“We wish these student-athletes all the best as they continue their basketball careers and education elsewhere,” coach Brenda Frese said in a statement. “Every team has been impacted by the transfer portal on both ends of it. Maryland basketball is bigger than any one lineup or person. Our staff is committed to bringing the best student-athletes to Maryland.”

The 6-foot-3 Reese, who is from Baltimore, was a highly touted recruit in 2020 and averaged 10 points a game as a freshman. She improved that to 17.8 this past season.

Owusu, a 6-foot guard, just finished her junior season with the Terrapins, She averaged 14.3 points per game after leading the team in scoring the previous season.

“I have never started anything that I haven’t finished, and finishing was the plan when I decided to come to College Park. My goal was to have a great career here and to win a national championship alongside an amazing team,” Owusu said on social media.

“I could picture my jersey hanging in the rafters at Xfinity Center. Unfortunately, events that have transpired on and off the court this year have led me to make the very difficult but necessary decision to continue my education and basketball career elsewhere.”

Owusu is from Woodbridge, Virginia.

“I want to thank the University of Maryland, my teammates, and Terp Nation for accepting me and supporting me for the past three seasons,” she said. “I ask that you please respect my privacy and pray for me and my family as I place my name in the transfer portal.”

Maryland in rare spot as lower-seeded team against Stanford

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 20 Div I Womens Championship - Second Round - Maryland v Florida Gulf Coast
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For one game at least, Maryland coach Brenda Frese figures the pressure is off.

The fourth-seeded Terrapins face top-seeded Stanford on Friday night in the Sweet 16. This is only the second time in the last seven NCAA Tournaments that Maryland is seeded this low. It’s also the first time the Terps will play against a No. 1 seed since 2015, and that game – a loss to Connecticut – was in the Final Four when Maryland was also a top seed.

So this scenario – a No. 4 playing a No. 1 – is pretty rare for Frese.

“We’re playing with house money. We’re going to go in there and play Maryland basketball,” she said. “We’re not going to be intimidated. We’ve already played so many great teams on our schedule. Obviously, we’re playing the defending national champions.”

The last time Maryland was a No. 4 seed was in 2014, and the Terps actually beat top-seeded Tennessee on their way to making the Final Four. They’re hoping for a repeat of that now, and they have reasons to think they have a shot. Maryland appears as healthy as it’s been all season, and in the second round, the Terrapins turned aside Florida Gulf Coast’s upset bid in an 89-65 blowout.

Maryland finally looked like the team that was ranked fourth in the country at the start of the season – the one with a talented, experienced core of returning players.

“A healthy Maryland is a scary Maryland, I think,” the Terrapins’ Angel Reese said. “This is the team everybody wanted to see.”

The Terps played a schedule befitting a team with high expectations early this season, but they weren’t at full strength. Standout guard Diamond Miller dealt with knee problems, and both she and guard Katie Benzan were out when Maryland lost 86-68 to Stanford at an event in the Bahamas in November. The Terps also lost to N.C. State two days before that.

In December, Maryland showed some of its potential when it played South Carolina tough in a 66-59 loss on the road, but the season was never all that easy for the Terps. They eventually lost their Big Ten Tournament opener to Indiana and barely received a high enough seed to host the first two rounds of the NCAAs.

They appeared refreshed after a two-week break, however, and routed both Delaware and FGCU.

“We finally see this team, finally coming together in March, with everyone being healthy,” Frese said. “Just having practice time together – it’s the most we’ve had all season long. Just peaking at the right time.”

Frese is trying to look to the past for inspiration. In 2006, when Maryland won the national title, it had to beat defending champion Baylor in the Sweet 16. The task this year is similar.

Since 2015, the Terps have been the lower-seeded team only once in 19 NCAA Tournament games. That was in 2018, when fifth-seeded Maryland lost in the second round to fourth-seeded N.C. State.

Stanford is a formidable opponent this time around, but at least now, the Terps have a sense of how high their own ceiling could be – and the confidence that they might be able to reach it after all.

“We’ve played three of the No. 1 seeds, including Stanford early in the preseason, where we were a different team,” Frese said. “We have all kinds of confidence now, just having gone through so much, learning some really great lessons.”

Big Ten places four teams in women’s Sweet 16 again

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 20 Div I Womens Championship - Second Round - Maryland v Florida Gulf Coast
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It has been seven years since the Big Ten had a team reach the Final Four and more than two decades since the conference had a national champion in women’s basketball.

With the conference having four teams in the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year, those streaks could be ending soon.

Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State and Maryland are all playing in the regional semifinals this weekend – matching the ACC for most teams left in the NCAA Tournament.

All four coaches credit the toughness of the conference as one of the main reasons for the success they’ve had so far on the game’s biggest stage.

“I think the biggest thing is we prepare each other for these moments,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “It’s so good and so competitive that we’re prepared for these games. The Big Ten prepares us for all these opponents we’re seeing right now.”

Indiana reached the regional final last season and has most of its team back from that run. The Hoosiers face UConn on Saturday in the Sweet 16.

Maryland, which faces Stanford on Friday, was the last team from the Big Ten to reach the Final Four, doing so in 2014. Coach Brenda Frese knows how important it can be to have made it to the regionals before.

“You have to gain that experience to get to the Sweet 16s and get to an Elite Eight like Indiana last year,” Frese said. “Your roster has to get that experience. That’s the cool thing to see now back-to-back years four teams making it to the Sweet 16. Teams are gaining a ton of experience to understand these rounds and how difficult it is.”

Michigan, which faces South Dakota on Saturday, is playing in its second straight Sweet 16 after never making it that far before.

“I’ve said it since I got here, the quote Geno (Auriemma) gave me 20 years ago. It’s easy to get there, the hard part is staying there,” Wolverines coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “When you have a league that has back-to-back four teams in the Sweet 16, it really speaks to you staying there and having arrived.”

All of the coaches are rooting for each other to succeed. As soon as the other Big Ten schools advanced, Frese tweeted out her excitement for them.

“Brenda has been a real champion of this and is 100% right,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “A lot of the other leagues out there have TV networks that trumpet their teams. We have to similarly as coaches promoting how good we are. We know how good we are. Everyone knows it as well.”

The sixth-seeded Buckeyes will face Texas on Friday

With the four women’s teams advancing to the Sweet 16 and a couple of Big Ten men’s teams still playing also, it will be a busy next few days for Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. He plans to try to take in as many of the games as he possibly can in person while watching others on his phone.

He believes his conference is really close to breaking its national semifinals drought.

“We are on the forefront of putting teams in the Final Four on a regular basis and winning national championships,” Warren said in a phone interview from the airport. “I look forward to seeing them go into the Final Four and look forward to the day when I see when the national championship trophy is handed to them.”

Warren also made changes in the conference office this season, hiring Megan Kahn in November to be the conference’s Vice President of Women’s Basketball.

“That showed the true commitment from Kevin Warren, our commissioner, who is passionate about women’s hoops,” Moren said. “Him hiring her and really making this a position exclusive for women’s basketball is a huge deal.”

Warren said creating that position was one of his top goals when he got hired.

“I had a list of transition initiatives and that was a top one,” he said. “The first year we had to deal with COVID, so it got delayed.”

He also has spent the last two years developing relationships with many of the coaches and players. He went to all of the women’s games at the conference tournament and constantly texts them before and after games.

“They know I’m there. They know I can’t be in two places at once or I’d be there,” he said. “I’ll see Indiana this weekend. Hopefully all four of our teams win, so I can figure out where to go.”

Maryland hires Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard as head coach

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Kevin Willard and Maryland both achieved a degree of success over the past decade.

Now they’re teaming up in the hope that bigger and better things are on the horizon.

Willard is taking over as Maryland’s head coach after a dozen seasons at Seton Hall. The Terrapins announced the hire three days after Seton Hall’s season ended with a loss to TCU in the NCAA Tournament. Willard took the Pirates to five of the last six NCAA tournaments, although they made the second round only once.

Maryland, meanwhile, has made the second round four times since 2015, but with only one Sweet 16 appearance. The Terrapins were in the market for a new coach after Mark Turgeon’s departure in early December. Assistant Danny Manning took over as interim coach, and the Terps went 15-17 for their first losing season since 1993.

“I have always admired the Maryland basketball program, and being named the new head coach of one of the biggest brands in college basketball is a tremendous honor,” Willard said in a statement. “Thank you to President (Darryll) Pines and (athletic director) Damon Evans for trusting me to re-energize this proud program as we look to galvanize our passionate fan base with a gritty, hard-working style of basketball. Having coached against Maryland several times and at XFINITY Center, I know how Terp fans feel about their team and understand their expectations.”

Those expectations are high. When Willard arrived at Seton Hall, the Pirates had missed the NCAAs four straight years. In that context, he brought the program to a higher level. Maryland, on the other hand, won a national title in 2002 under Gary Williams. That’s who Turgeon followed, and the results weren’t up to that standard, particularly in the NCAA Tournament.

So Willard moves from the Big East to the Big Ten after seven 20-win seasons with the Pirates.

“Kevin Willard was a proven winner in the Big East while at Seton Hall,” Williams said. “The intensity level of his teams reflect the passion that Kevin will bring to our team and the university.”

Maryland scheduled a news conference for Tuesday night.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kevin to the Terrapin family,” Evans said. “We are excited about the future of Maryland basketball with Kevin leading the way.”

Willard won 225 games at Seton Hall, surpassing P.J. Carlesimo earlier this season for second place on the school’s career list. The Pirates won the Big East Tournament in 2016 and a regular-season title in 2020. In that respect, Willard endured a similar fate to Turgeon – they arguably had their best teams at Seton Hall and Maryland in 2020, when the NCAA Tournament was called off because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Terps tied for first in the Big Ten that season.

After Seton Hall was eliminated from this year’s NCAA Tournament, Willard candidly said if he wasn’t back with the Pirates, he’d love for Shaheen Holloway to be there. Holloway, who played at Seton Hall, coached 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s into the Sweet 16 this year; the Peacocks face Purdue later this week.

Seton Hall said it would begin a search for Willard’s successor.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kevin for 10 of his 12 years here at Seton Hall, and I want to thank him for his phenomenal leadership of our men’s basketball program and for helping our student-athletes become the best possible versions of themselves,” Seton Hall athletic director Bryan Felt said. “Kevin came in and immediately changed the culture of our program and built it into a perennial Big East championship and NCAA Tournament contender with student-athletes who succeed in the classroom and represent the university in a first-class manner.”

Before taking over the Seton Hall program, Willard coached Iona for three seasons. His father Ralph coached Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Holy Cross, winning 336 games and going to the NCAA Tournament six times.

Russell, Ayala push Maryland over No. 22 Ohio State, 75-60

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Fatts Russell matched his career high with 27 points, Eric Ayala scored 23 and Maryland took down No. 22 Ohio State 75-60 on Sunday.

The Terrapins (14-15, 6-12 Big Ten) had lost six of their previous eight. But they wore down the Buckeyes (18-8, 11-6) and held them to 36.2% from the field.

“They’ve got a lot of good players on their team, and we just had to contest their shots,” said Donta Scott, who had 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals for Maryland.

Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell, who entered the game as the Buckeyes’ leading scorer by averaging 19.6 points, was held to 11 points. And freshman star Malaki Branham, who averaged 26.7 points in his previous three games, had only 13 to lead the Buckeyes.

“We weren’t as prepared and ready as we should be,” Ohio State forward Kyle Young said.

Maryland first took the lead with 8:07 to play in the first half after Ayala hit two free throws, which were the first of 11 straight points. The Terrapins had a 32-28 advantage at the half.

Branham hit a 3-pointer with 8:08 remaining in the game to cut Maryland’s lead to 53-50. Ayala followed with a layup and, after a collision with Ohio State’s Zed Key, two free throws to increase the lead to 57-50. Key injured his right ankle and had to be helped off the floor.

Russell and Ayala hit 3-pointers, and the Terps led 64-53 with 4:17 to play. Russell hit two 3-pointers as Maryland took a 75-57 lead with 1:18 to play.

“It’s hard to win in this league,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “We just didn’t bring enough.”

HOMELAND

Maryland forward Pavlo Dziuba was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, and draped himself in the Ukrainian flag in the pre-game huddle. Dzuiba’s teammates wore blue wristbands in sympathy.

“He has family members there, friends, people that he cares for,” Maryland interim coach Danny Manning said. “It’s just to let him know, to support him, to love him and thoughts and prayers.”

LOOKING AHEAD

Young knows that the loss won’t help Ohio State as it prepares for the postseason.

“We had a pretty good chance at a Big Ten championship and you lose a game on the road,” he said. “It hurts.”

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

Maryland’s 2002 national championship team was introduced late in the first half. Gary Williams, the Terrapins’ longtime former coach, and his players spoke to the current team before the game.

“You felt their presence there,” Russell said. “Coach Williams said a couple words and he gave us motivation. When he talks, everybody listens. He’s a legendary coach . We went out there and tried not to disappoint them.”

STAT OF THE GAME

Russell surpassed 2,000 points with his 3-pointer early in the game. After four years at Penn State, he’s finishing his career at Maryland.

“I’ve been through a lot,” Russell said.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: The Buckeyes were coming off Thursday’s close win at No. 15 Illinois and needed this game to improve their Big Ten and NCAA Tournament seedings. They must play better in their final three games.

Maryland: In a disappointing season, this was perhaps their most impressive win. Inspired by the 20th anniversary of the 2002 NCAA championship team, the Terrapins can hope for a nice run in the upcoming Big Ten tournament.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: Finishes its regular season with three home games: Nebraska on Tuesday, Michigan State on Thursday and Michigan on Sunday.

Maryland: Will host Minnesota on Wednesday and finish the regular season on the road at Michigan State on Sunday.