By Justin Powell | @Justin_Powell24
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – The top-seeded Maryland Terrapins relied on the overpowering combination of their senior players and a gifted freshman to defeat the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes, 82-65, in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
Maryland (28-4) won its fourth Big Ten Women’s title in six years as a conference member and secured its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach Brenda Frese. The Terrapins have won 17 consecutive games and extended their record in Big Ten tournament games to 16-2.
The 17-point margin of victory was the largest in a Big Ten women’s final, surpassing Maryland’s 60-44 victory over Michigan State in 2016.
The Terrapin seniors, Stephanie Jones, Kaila Charles, and Blair Watson, combined for 35 of the team’s 82 points. Jones scored a team-high 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting plus 6-of-6 at the foul line. Jones also grabbed 10 rebounds for her 10th career double-double.
Watson tallied 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting and added four steals. Charles added 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting for the Terrapins.
Charles, Jones and Watson have posted a record of 114-20 over their four years at Maryland. Freshman guard Ashley Owusu, who scored 17 points with 11 assists and six rebounds, was voted the Jim and Kitty Delany Most Outstanding Player. The 11 assists tied the championship-game record set by Maryland’s Channise Lewis in 2019.
The Terrapins found themselves in a situation similar to what they faced in the previous two games in the tournament, after getting off to a slow start. Maryland committed four turnovers in the first quarter that resulted in six Buckeye points.
Jones helped carry the load for Maryland in the first quarter, scoring eight points.
Frese credits Jones for stepping up when the Terrapins needed her.
“She really brought it I thought every single game for us,” Frese said. “We had to have those minutes from her from the offensive as well as the defensive end.”
Maryland used a strong second quarter to gain separation from the Buckeyes, including a 7-0 run over a span of 3:05. The run helped build a 37-29 lead with 4:23 left in the half.
The Terrapins forced Ohio State into 5-for-17 shooting in the second quarter. Maryland would outscore the Buckeyes 24-13 in the quarter and take 44-35 lead into the half.
Charles said that Frese told the Terrapins that they needed to excel defensively in the second half.
“She was just saying that we need to lock into our defense,” Charles said. “That’s something she’s been saying all year because our defense leads to our offense. We get a lot of stops, that leads to our break.”
Maryland continued to surge in the third quarter with another 7-0 run over 1:22. Watson played a huge part in the Terrapins third quarter run, scoring six of her 11 points in the quarter.
Watson turned defense into offense midway through the third quarter, getting the steal and coming down and making a fast break 3-pointer to put her team up 56-39 with 5:03 left in the quarter.
Maryland would gain its largest advantage of the game at 22 points late in the fourth quarter behind a Charles layup that made the game 82-60 with 1:30 left.
The Terrapin seniors accomplished something that they achieved as freshmen, and that was to walk out as champions.
Jones said that it felt good to end up with the championship as a senior.
“It means a lot,” Jones said. “….We just wanted to come out and win it for them and winning it for ourselves.”