By Justin Powell | @Justin_Powell24
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – The top-seeded Maryland Terrapins used a dominant third quarter to beat the fourth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers, 66-51, and advance to a record sixth consecutive championship game in the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The Terrapins (27-4) advanced to the title game against Ohio State on Sunday night. Maryland has won 15 of 17 Big Ten tournament games starting with its three straight championships from 2015 through 2017. The only losses were in championship games against Ohio State in 2018 and Iowa last season.
A pair of Maryland reserve freshman guards, Diamond Miller and Ashley Owusu, helped the Terrapin bench outscore Indiana, 31-10. Miller scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Owusu scored 14 on 4-of-8 shooting and 6-of-7 at the foul line.
Not many teams have been able to keep up with the Terrapins, as head coach Brenda Frese’s squad has averaged 83.7 points per game, the fourth-highest average in the nation. For a half, Saturday was a different story for the Terrapins, as the Hoosiers would hold them to 28 points in the first half, their fourth-lowest scoring first half of the season.
But a 17-0 Maryland run over a span of 6:38 in the third quarter took control of the game and allowed the Terrapins to build a lead as large as 19 points late in the third quarter. Maryland senior guard Kaila Charles, who scored nine of her 11 points in the third quarter, made a free throw to put Maryland ahead 45-26 with 3:15 left in the third quarter.
The Terrapins forced four Indiana turnovers during the run and scored six points off those turnovers.
Charles says it was vital for her to knock down her shots in the third quarter, especially during their 17-0 run.
“It was important, and it was a big difference,” Charles said. “They were finding me when I was open, but yeah, I was just taking the shot when I was open, and they were finding me, so just being ready and making sure that I’m shot ready.”
The Terrapins would go on to outscore the Hoosiers 22-9 in the third quarter and would take 50-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
With a pro-Indiana crowd behind its team, Hoosier head coach Teri Moren’s squad brought the fight to the Terrapins in the first half.
The Hoosiers (24-8) went to work on the glass, gaining 20 rebounds to equal the total of a Maryland team that had outrebounded its opponents by eight per game this season.
Indiana junior guard Ali Patberg made several plays to help keep the Hoosiers close, hitting back-to-back shots, as part of her game-high 16 points, to put the Hoosiers up 9-7 with 7:27 left in the first quarter.
The Terrapin duo of sophomore Shakira Austin and senior Stephanie Jones, who have combined for 23 points per game this season, struggled offensively in the first half. The two forwards were held to a combined eight points by the Hoosier defense in the first half.
Moren credits her team for playing well defensively.
“I’m really proud of our guys and just how hard they played,” Moren said. “I thought we tested them defensively for sure.”
The second half was a different story for the Terrapins. Patberg would score the first basket of the second half to bring the score to 28-26 with 9:49 left in the third quarter.
Owusu scored the first four points for the Terrapins to open the fourth quarter, including a pull up jump shot to make the score 52-33 with 9:53 left in the game.
Just when you thought Indiana was back in the game when senior Brenna Wise hit a big three to bring the Hoosiers to 54-43 with 6:31 left. The Terrapins had other plans.
Miller scored eight straight points, including back-to-back 3-point shots. Miller’s effort was a significant response to the Hoosiers 5-0 run, and her effort would make the score 62-43 with 2:32 left in the game.
Miller says she was playing team basketball during her 8-0 run in the third quarter, and she knew she had to step up.
“I just think we were just playing Maryland basketball and staying focused,” Miller said. We knew they were on their run, but we just kept pushing, and we had to score, too, so that’s what we were doing.”
Frese was pleased with her team’s effort in the second half, and she is excited for another chance to play in the championship game on Sunday.
“I think what makes this team so special is just how they play for one another,” Frese said. We’re excited to be playing for our seniors in the championship game tomorrow night.”