Mentor vs protege subplot to Maryland-Louisville
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP)
The motivational checklist for the second-seeded Terrapins on Monday night also includes revenge and redemption.
Seventh-seed Louisville is coached by Jeff Walz, who served as an assistant under Brenda Frese at Maryland for five years before joining the Cardinals in 2007. In the first meeting between mentor and protege, Louisville defeated the Terrapins in the 2009 tournament to advance to the Final Four.
Now Frese and Maryland's upperclassmen have an opportunity to even the score.
''Obviously our seniors remember it,'' Frese said Sunday. ''I've said this all season long: We have a lot of pride. So when you have something that's happened to you in the past, whether it be that Louisville game in their freshman year, or our ending last year, we're a prideful team. You would expect from players that are competitive and want to win.''
The ''ending last year'' was a humbling 79-57 second-round loss to Georgetown on Maryland's home floor.
''Last year we didn't protect our house,'' Maryland star forward Alyssa Thomas said. ''We got blown off the court in front of our own fans. So I know this year, there's a different focus. We just want to go out there and show people we're a different team this year.''
Maryland (29-4) enters the game as Atlantic Coast Conference champs and riding an eight-game winning streak, including a 59-44 first-round win over Navy.
Louisville (23-8) beat Michigan State 67-55 Saturday to improve to 10-3 under Walz in the NCAA tournament.
Frese and Walz worked side by side in 2006 to deliver a national championship to Maryland. Since Walz left, there has been little interaction between the two.
''I haven't talked to her in probably four years. We've both got our own thing going on,'' Walz said. ''There's really no contact there at all.''
That doesn't mean they don't care.
''We're really happy for his success,'' Frese said. ''Anytime you have assistant coaches who go on and are successful, it speaks volumes.''
Because they spent five years together, Frese and Walz have a pretty good idea of the X's and O's in each other's playbook.
''I think from both of our ends we know each other's philosophies,'' Frese said. ''In fact, we even have some of the same play calls. That makes it fun.''
On Monday night, Frese and Walz are going to be all business. For Walz, the objective is to beat Maryland, and it has nothing to do with Frese being on the other end of the court.
''We're not really concerned about that. It's just another basketball game,'' Walz said. ''This is a game to get to the Sweet 16. Our goal is to be able to move on.''
Frese seemingly feels the same way. The sting of losing that game in 2009 won't ever completely vanish, but thinking about it won't help Maryland in the rematch.
''These are two different teams and scenarios,'' she said. ''We're not focused on the past. We're here in the present.''
For the Cardinals to win, they must overcome a deep, talented Maryland team that has lost only once since Jan. 26.
''It's a game that we're going to have to play as we have all year to even have a chance,'' Walz insisted.
President Obama picked Louisville to pull off an upset, a prediction that drew a smile from both coaches.
''I was actually thrilled,'' Frese said. ''During the season, when I've had different people tell me the picks are against us, we've won those games. So I was actually pretty excited when I heard it. We've had to prove ourselves all season long. This isn't any different.''
Walz laughingly viewed the President's pick as a political ploy.
''He's trying to win Kentucky, because I think he picked Kentucky men too to go and he may have picked (Louisville) men,'' he said with a grin. ''He wants our state for sure. It's coming up on a re-election year. If I was him, I wouldn't have picked anybody. I'd say everybody's a favorite.''