INDIANAPOLIS, IN — No. 4 Maryland (29-2, 15-1) dominated every facet of the game against Michigan State (21-11, 9-7) en route to its 100-89 win and its third-consecutive appearance in the Big Ten Championship game.
Maryland set the tone early against Michigan State. The Terrapins have their eyes set on another Final Four berth and the team began its journey in earnest versus the Spartans.
In the high-scoring affair, each team had four players score in double figures, but it was Maryland who capitalized on its star power.
“I thought that we obviously needed all the 100 points that we got tonight,” said Maryland head coach Brenda Frese. “But I thought we were able to kind of find in different runs who to be able to get the ball through, whether it was Tori, Bri, Destiny late in the second half.”
Maryland has many weapons but its star is Brionna Jones, and the Terrapins relied heavily on its senior center to guide them on both ends of the floor.
Jones — who led the Big Ten this year in rebounds and field goal percentage — played an excellent first half and would finish the night with 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. While fellow senior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough chipped in 22 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Terrapins offense is potent and versatile because of the dynamic duo of Jones and Walker-Kimbrough. The Spartans however, proved to be a stingy team all season long and consistently challenged the Big Ten regular season champ until the midway through the fourth quarter.
In the third quarter, Michigan State was able to cut Maryland’s lead to single digits because of guard Tori Jankoska.
The senior guard almost single-handily kept her team within striking distance with her 3-point shooting.
The Freeland, Mich. native finished the game with 31 points, on 7-of-16 shooting from deep, and 5 rebounds.
Jankoska — who is a member of the Big Ten 2,000 point club, along with Walker-Kimbrough — forced Maryland to pressure her, allowing the rest of the Spartan offense more room to operate.
“I did think Michigan State might be a little more tired on day three of legs, but I thought their grit and toughness was tremendous to watch,” Frese said. “When they started banking in three’s, I knew it was their night.”
Spartan guard Branndais Agee was the biggest recipient of Jankoska’s shooting. Agee finished the game with 24 points and 4 assists.
Even with Jankoska shooting lights out, Maryland has a plethora of weapons it can turn to.
“They have players that can score from all angles,” Jankoska said. “You try and double one person and you leave another McDonald’s All-American wide open.”
With the Spartans rallying behind Jankoska in the third quarter, it was Big Ten freshman of the Year Destiny Slocum who stepped up late.
With the clock winding down in the third quarter, Maryland inbounded the ball and was able to get it to Slocum in transition. Slocum crossed-over Jankoska and hit a crucial three to extend Maryland’s lead 71-60 entering the fourth quarter.
Slocum continued to assert her dominance throughout the fourth and finished the night with 18 points and 5 assists while shooting 5-8 from deep.
Michigan State’s place in the NCAA tournament is fluid, while Maryland is looking to secure either a no. 1 or no. 2 seed with a win tomorrow.
Maryland will look to repeat as champions tomorrow when it plays Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament Championship.