By Jacob Keith | @JacobKeith55
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS –For sophomore forward Shakira Austin and senior forward Stephanie Jones of the Maryland Terrapins, a combined 24 rebounds may represent just another game. This time, it was against Purdue in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament. No. 1 seed Maryland, behind the double-doubles of Jones and Austin, beat ninth-seeded Purdue, 74-62, to extend its winning streak to 15 games.
Playing in the Big Ten tournament for the sixth time, the Terrapins, who will meet fourth-seeded Indiana on Saturday, have won 14 of 16 games. Maryland (26-4) won championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and lost in the title game in 2018 and 2019.
Jones, who scored 14 points with 13 rebounds, and Austin, who scored 12 with 11 rebounds, were recipients of Big Ten All-Second Team honors. Playing similar positions, competitiveness is sure to come from being together all the time. “I would say we’re pretty competitive,” Austin said.
According to Jones, “We just push each other [and] make each other better.”
Even though they excel in rebounding, with Austin averaging 5.6 and Jones 6.8, they also shine at the defensive end.
Jones has only had Austin as a running mate for two years, but this year there has been something different about the experience. “I think this year we’ve done a great job of getting to that point of trusting each other and really having each other’s backs,” Jones said.
When Jones and Austin are on the floor, Maryland’s defense is solid because of their ability to switch assignments down low.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese had a plan for the two. “We were trying to get some quick box-outs on them, trying to be able to push them back,” she said. “But they were able to expose us at different times.”
Jones and Austin are both complete basketball players, and they showed their offensive prowess along with rebounding and defense. They added 26 to the Terrapins 74-point total. Purdue coach Sharon Versyp was excited the number was so low.“They’ve been averaging 50 to 60 points in the paint, and today we held them to 32 points in the paint, which was really important for us to be successful.”
Most of the duo’s success came in the third and fourth quarter. The two agreed with Frese’s halftime message that they were rushing their looks. “In the second half the message was to play the gaps and play slow,” Austin said.
After leading by eight in the first half, the slow play helped Maryland finish out the second half with four more points than the Boilermakers and complete a comfortable victory.