A new era of basketball is underway in College Park, and one of Maryland’s bigs appeared to take right to the style of play in the new conference.
The Maryland Lady Terrapins (number 14 AP, number 9 USA Today Coaches’ Poll) tipped off their first Big Ten season against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Dec. 29 before a crowd of 5,671 at the XFINITY Center. Sophomore center Brionna Jones (Havre de Grace/Aberdeen High School) scored Maryland’s first five points and racked up four offensive rebounds in the first 3:06 of the game. Jones, who finished with seven offensive rebounds, felt that being more physical would help her team control the tempo of the game.
“I was just trying to out-physical them, just be more physical than them, and out-rebound them, and just try and work as hard as I could to keep the ball in our hands,” Jones said. She finished with a game-high 23 points, 14 total rebounds and four blocks.
However, the rest of the first half was fairly evenly played. The key factor was Maryland’s attack on the boards. The Lady Terps held a 33-17 edge in total rebounds, including 15-6 on the offensive glass and 15-3 in second-chance points. Ohio State got untracked by three-point range enough to keep Maryland from pulling away, as the Terps only held a 43-40 lead at halftime.
The Terps started to impose their will early in the second half. Jones scored on a layup off another offensive rebound with 17:46 left to give herself a double-double and Maryland a 49-44 lead. Just over a minute and a half later, junior forward Tierney Pfiernan set up sophomore guard Lexie Brown for a layup that gave Maryland a 55-49 lead that led Ohio State to call a timeout as the crowd roared its approval. The Terps then started pulling away, holding the Buckeyes scoreless for four and a half minutes while missing eight straight shots. That allowed Maryland to go on an 11-0 run to extend their lead to 68-55 with 10:20 left in the game. The Terps maintained control for the rest of the game on the way to an 87-78 win, their first-ever Big 10 win. Maryland (10-2) shot 51.5 percent in the second half, while holding Ohio State (8-5) to just 35.7 percent. Five players, including four of the starters, scored in double figures, and Head Coach Brenda Frese was happy with how her players handled the shifts in momentum during the game.
“(I’m) really proud of how we handled the game, a game of runs; really a lot of fun to watch. I mean, it was like a track meet when you talk about both teams really being up-tempo and being aggressive,” Frese said. She gave credit to the Lady Buckeyes for how strong a team they are, and said the game was an indicator of the “battles” to come during the rest of the Big Ten season.
“More than anything, when you get to conference play, it’s just you’re excited about the level of competition and the fact that you’re going to have to play a complete game in order to get the win,” Frese said. With the amount of depth her team has, she says she’s open to adjusting how she rotates her players in and out of games.
“I feel like with our depth this season, it’s really a matter of who’s practicing well, who’s playing well; there’s different games in terms of matchups,” Frese said, adding that she feels Maryland’s depth is an advantage.
After Cait Craft hit a three to pull the Buckeyes to within four with 2:43 left, Ohio State tried trapping Maryland. Sophomore guard Lexie Brown explained how Maryland was able to handle that pressure.
“At that point in the game, I think they were just trying to get us to turn the ball over, so they were kind of just chasing the ball. After you beat the trap, the middle was wide open, and they were just leaving Bri wide open in the bottom, so it was our job just to find her,” Brown said. Brown finished with 12 points and seven assists.
Jones wasn’t the only starter with a double-double. Redshirt senior guard Laurin Mincy had 14 points and 11 rebounds, along with six assists. Joining Jones, Mincy and Brown in double-figure scoring was Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who barely missed a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds, and junior forward Tierney Pfirnan, who had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Pfirnan drew some cheers from the fans with her hustle.
The Terrapins will play their first Big Ten road game on New Year’s weekend when they go to Nebraska (number 12 AP, number 14 USA Today) on Jan. 3.