By Caleb Lynn | @CalebLynn1
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – Kaila Charles’ free throws with 10.3 seconds to play sent the Maryland Terrapins into the championship game of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament for the fifth consecutive year with a 73-72 victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
The victory, in the fifth season the Terrapins have been a conference member, made Maryland the 12th Division I women’s team in NCAA history to win 1,000 games.
Maryland (28-3), the No. 1 seed, will meet No. 2 Iowa in the championship game at 6 p.m. Sunday. Michigan (21-11), which was trying to reach a Big Ten final for the first time, lost its fourth semifinal game.
Charles led all scorers with 22 points, including all six points Maryland scored in the last 8:14. She made eight of nine free throws, including two after she was fouled by Michigan’s Naz Hillmon, whose layup with 21 seconds to go had given the Wolverines a 72-71 lead.
“It was my teammates setting screens for me to get open,” Charles said, “… Then at the end, Taylor (Mikesell) set me a good screen and the girl happened to foul me and we were able to get on the line to get two opportunities and shots to get the lead.”
Charles had appeared to put Maryland ahead with a short jump shot. But as she was pressured by Michigan defenders Hallie Thome and Deja Church, a timeout was called with 10.3 seconds to go, nullifying the basket.
“Yeah, I mean a timeout was called,” Frese said. “That’s what they heard. And so it’s – I mean, there is nothing else you can do. At that point the decision was made, so we had to move forward.”
Maryland led by eight points, 67-59, when junior Stephanie Jones scored on a layup with 8:15 to go. But Michigan’s 13-4 run in a span of 7:24, with senior guard Nicole Munger scoring seven of her 20 points, put the Wolverines ahead with 21 seconds to play.
“I thought we did a tremendous job of executing in the fourth quarter all the way down the stretch,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We have been in this position a lot of times this year so we really felt confident that we were going to be on the winning end of it coming out tonight.”
Shakira Austin, Maryland’s 6-foot, 5-inch freshman center, blocked a layup by Michigan freshman Amy Dilk with 1.5 seconds to play. The block, Austin’s third of the game, set a Maryland record with 82 this season.
“I definitely knew that all we needed one was one stop,” Austin said. “I did not want to foul anybody and honestly I did not even know that I was going to get that block.”
Michigan had one last chance, but Thome lost the ball after the inbounds pass. Maryland has already collected the third most Big Ten tournament championships in the 25-year history of the event, trailing only Purdue (nine) and Ohio State (six). One more victory would become Maryland’s fourth championship, and program victory number 1001.
“Yeah, that would be a special feeling,” Frese said. “But I think it speaks volumes of the University of Maryland and the program and the legacy. And I can’t say enough about the two coaches before me, with Dottie McKnight and Chris Weller, who set the bar and set the standard for me to follow.”