College Park, MD -- With 4:46 remaining in Sunday's game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Terps' Shatori Walker-Kimbrough found herself wide open just feet from the basket.
She could have easily scored, like she had done 11 times before in the game to collect the 19 points she finished with. But instead of breaking her scoring total into the twenties, the junior did something that embodied the theme of the entire game: she flipped a pass to senior teammate Malina Howard, who scored an equally easy hoop on the other side of the paint.
At the final buzzer, the scoreboard read: Maryland 110, Minnesota 77, but this game was about much more than just a blowout victory.
With the win, the Terps captured the regular-season Big Ten Championship title, beating out Ohio State and Michigan State.
Additionally, as the last regular-season contest on the Terps' home Xfinity Center court in College Park, the game was "senior day" for the team's four seniors: Howard, Chloe Pavlech, Tierney Pfirman and Brene Moseley, and the Terps elders certainly rose to the occasion.
Throughout the regular season, Maryland has relied on consistent and instant offense off the bench from both Moseley and Pfirman. However, on Sunday, Maryland head coach Brenda Frese put the team's typical game plan aside and chose to start all four seniors, as well as Walker-Kimbrough.
"It's a special time for us," Frese said after the game. "They know what kind of feelings I hold towards our seniors and why we play the season is for them. No question, to be able to honor them, all of their hard work and sacrifices that these four have had in their career, [it's] just special to be able to send them out the right way."
The seniors finished with a combined 56 points on the day, including a career-high and game-high 29 from Pfirman, to go along with 13 rebounds. Pavlech recorded eight assists and 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Moseley had seven points, eight assists, and seven rebounds, and Howard had eight points.
"They set the tone with their energy," Frese said of her seniors. "They were locked in from the minute the ball went up. Again, it just goes back to why they've won so much in their college careers, and there was no doubt the statement that they were going to make tonight."
Walker-Kimbrough and fellow junior Brionna Jones' numbers weren't anything to sneeze at either; Walker-Kimbrough had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Jones had 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field. But while their performances were undoubtedly significant, it was almost as if they came as the background noise to the seniors' big shows.
Minnesota's Rachel Banham dumped in 26 (she averages nearly 28), but her team wasn't able to combat the balance and fluidity that took over the Terps' game.
"They were competing for a Big Ten championship today, and I thought that it showed from the jump," Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings said.
Fifty-six of the Terps' points were scored in the paint, and 20 were scored on the fast break. Minnesota's numbers in those categories were 18 and two, respectively.
"We took some shots that we normally like to take, and we missed them, and that kind of ignited their fast break," Stollings said. "Those were long rebounds, and it put us in a bad situation in terms of getting back."
Maryland out-rebounded the Gophers 53-23, allowing the home team to put back 18 second-chance points. Their efforts on the glass, on defense, and in the transition offense were what set the game apart regarding actual play, but the milestones achieved after the final buzzer brought the meaning of the game to a new place entirely.
"This one's special," Frese said. "This one I'm going to remember for a long time. You couldn't have scripted it any better for our seniors, to be able to send them out in a game in this fashion. Picture perfect game."