By Caleb Lynn | @CalebLynn1
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – They could not forget the last meeting. One of the few potholes in the ride through this season for the Maryland Terrapins was that trip to Michigan State in mid-January, a 77-60 defeat that stands as the most one-sided of the season.
On Friday afternoon, the top-seeded Terrapins turned that memory into a footnote. Maryland’s 71-55 victory over the Spartans sent the Terrapins into a semifinal game of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament for the fifth time in its five seasons as a conference member. “What I love about this team is that yesterday this was who they wanted to play,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, “and so you know again they are just extremely competitive and when they learn those lessons, then they take those lessons and want to get better.”
Maryland (27-3) will meet Michigan at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Michigan State (20-11), which made 44.3 percent of its shots this season, was held to 29 percent. In the decisive third quarter, Maryland limited Michigan State to 12.5 percent shooting while outscoring the Spartans, 25-10. Maryland led by as many as 25 points and was ahead for 38:26.
Kalia Charles, the junior and unanimous first-team All-Big Ten player, made just one of five shots for a season-low three points in that game at Michigan State. After a 1-for-7 first half on Friday, Charles scored 16 of her game-high 21 points and had seven of her 10 rebounds in the second half.
“We went away from what we were doing in the first quarter,” Charles said. “Coach challenged us to lock in and focus on our defense to lead into our offense.”
Junior forward Stephanie Jones scored 14 points with 11 rebounds. Junior guard Blair Watson scored 11 points and made three of four 3-point shots.
Maryland, the No. 1 seed for the third time in five seasons, came into the game with a double bye and that can give a team more rest. The Terps have been used to the double bye which can be a good and bad thing. “The double bye is definitely helpful in terms of rest,” Charles said. “But being able to play a game the day before gets you in a rhythm so once we realized that we came out slow in the first half then the urgency needed to be picked up in the second half.”
Maryland made 52 percent of its field goal attempts, including nine of 11 shots – 81.8 percent – in the third quarter. “To hold a team as talented as Michigan State defensively I thought was huge and holding them to 18 field goals was critical to our success,” Frese said.
For Frese, the reversal from the loss at East Lansing was a result of getting back to Maryland’s identity. Charles was a good example.
“Specifically with Kaila, I thought she was not able to work through some things in the first half,” Frese said, “but I thought she just kept her poise and composure and made big play after big play in the second half.”