By Drew Kamaski | @d_kamaski14
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – The Maryland Terrapins extended their perfect record in the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament, advancing to a third consecutive championship game with a 100-89 victory over Michigan State. The second-seeded Terrapins (29-2) won their eighth straight tournament game since joining the conference in 2014-15 and became the first team in 23 tournaments to score 100 points.
The Terrapins advanced to the final against fifth-seeded Purdue, which beat Ohio State. Maryland was guided by senior center Brionna Jones, who scored 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting, with nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. . Jones led her team to the finish line with a 32-point performance.
“Can’t stop her,” said Spartans coach Suzy Merchant, whose record against ranked opponents this season is now 2-4. “She had 32 points. We couldn’t keep her off the board. There’s not a better post player in the country.”
Maryland, seeded second in the tournament and fourth in both major national polls, will attempt to become the first Big Ten women’s team to win three consecutive tournaments since Ohio State from 2009-2011. Purdue, which won from 1998 through 2000, is the only other women’s team to win three straight Big Ten tournament titles.
Four Terrapins scored in double digits. Senior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 22 points to set a Maryland record for points in a season with 703. Walker moved into fourth place in school history with 2,086 career points.
Jones, who leads the country in field-goal percentage for the second straight year, scored 32 points. Her career field-goal percentage of .667 is a Big Ten record.
The victory was the 400th for coach Brenda Frese in 15 seasons at Maryland. In 18 seasons overall, her record is 457-140 for a winning percentage of .766.
“Coach said it was important for us to keep pushing the tempo,” said Walker-Kimbrough. “I think it was day three or day four for them. Their legs were tired.”
The Terrapins lead the country in scoring, averaging 90.4 points per game. They are also number two in the country in field goal percentage, shooting .505 from the field.
A pair of freshman guards, Big Ten freshman of the year Destiny Slocum and Kayla Charles, each scored 18 points. Charles made 7 of 12 shots with six rebounds and five steals. Slocum made 6 of 10 shots with five assists.
“I forgot they were freshmen,” said Walker-Kimbrough. “They’re like our engine. Kaila, defensively with her energy, and Destiny with her tempo.”
Maryland took control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Spartans, 27-17. Michigan State tried to keep up with Terrapins tempo, but eight straight points by Slocum put the Spartans away as Maryland took a 94-79 lead with 2:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. The teams combined for a Big Ten Tournament record 58 points in the quarter.
“I did think Michigan State might be a little more tired on day three of legs,” said Frese. “But I thought their grit and toughness was tremendous to watch.”
With Frese at the helm, Maryland is now 10-0 against the Spartans. In the only regular-season meeting against Purdue, Maryland defeated the Boilermakers, 85-70, at Purdue’s Mackey Arena on Feb. 2.
“I think it’s a calm feeling,” said Frese about playing for a championship. “Knowing we can prepare ourselves the best that we can. I think that’s going to give us the confidence we need to go out there and play.”