Don't let the teaser headline fool you. The Indiana Hoosiers came to College Park and played hard enough to throw a scare into the Terrapins and most of the 5,601 fans on hand to watch Maryland close out a hard fought, physical 83-72 win and wrap up a perfect 15-0 season at Xfinity Center.
First half - Senior special
On the game's opening possession, Maryland seemed determined to get Laurin Mincy the first basket on her senior night. When they failed, it seemed to briefly stagnate their offense. Fortunately for Terps fans, Indiana was equally ineffective and it fell to Malina Howard to open the scoring with a soft 12-foot baseline jumper about two and a half minutes into the contest.
In a clear demonstration of the balance they have shown all season, the Terps first four baskets, including one by Mincy, came from four different players. Lexie Brown's three pointer from the left corner gave Maryland an early seven-point lead, but the Hoosiers bounced back with a pair of three pointers to narrow the lead to 14-13.
After another period where both offenses stagnated, a rebound basket and free throw by Brionna Jones put Maryland ahead 20-16. The Terps stretched the lead to six before a three pointer by Karlee McBride closed the gap to 24-21. Then, back-to-back layups and a free throw by Shatori Walker-Kimbrough opened an eight-point Terps lead.
Seven straight points by Howard sandwiched a Hoosiers basket and gave the Terrapins their first double-digit lead at 36-25. After one offensive rebound and put back, the junior showed uncharacteristic emotion. Said Howard, "In the back of my mind I knew this game was for Laurin and it's been an emotional week knowing it's senior night. I knew we needed some energy at that point so I thought it was the right time."
Two Mincy free throws made the gap 13, but Indiana answered with six straight, making three of four free throws and a three point jumper. The Hoosiers trailed 38-31 at the final media timeout of the half.
The half ended perfectly for the Terps. Walker-Kimbrough scored on consecutive baseline drives and, after an Indiana layup by Amanda Cahill, the Terps worked for the last shot of the half. Brown drove the lane, collapsed the defense and dished to Mincy in the left corner who swished the three point jumper just before the buzzer, giving Maryland a 47-35 halftime lead.
Mincy led Maryland with 15 points. Walker-Kimbrough added 11 to join her in double figures. Coach Brenda Frese probably planned to have a few words with her squad about their rebounding effort, however, as the Hoosiers and Terps each had 19 at the break.
Of her sole senior, coach Frese said, "Five years. Three surgeries. The adversity she had to face. And she battled. Often times young people don't want to fight through tough times. She's a living example of why she has the utmost respect of our staff and her teammates because she put her head down and she battled. She'll always have a special place in my heart because of that."
Second half - Still too much Mincy
Maryland didn't start the half well. They turned over the ball on their first possession and missed their first four shots, allowing the Hoosiers to chop four points off the lead. A traditional three-point play by Brown got the Terps started. Tierney Pfirman's short jumper opened a 13-point lead for Maryland headed into the first media timeout.
When Walker-Kimbrough made one of two from the line and Mincy added a short jumper, Maryland led 57-41. However, the teams traded a trio of three point shots with two going to the Hoosiers and Indiana coach Teri Moren called a timeout with 13 and a half minutes to play and the Hoosiers trailing 60-47.
Two Terrapins offensive fouls and a bunch of turnovers by both teams later, Jess Walter dropped in a three pointer and Indiana trailed by 10. Brown's turnover led to a McBride layup that the sophomore followed with a three point jumper that trimmed Maryland's lead to 62-55.
Another McBride three brought a bit of a nervous edge to the Terps faithful as the lead dwindled to four. Howard's offensive rebound boosted the lead back to six at 64-58. After a defensive stop, Howard repeated her effort and the Maryland lead was eight.
The squads traded pairs of free throws and Walker-Kimbrough drove the lane to stretch the lead back into double digits. Maryland led 71-61 at the final media timeout with IU headed to the free throw line for a one-and-one. Tyra Buss made the first but missed the second and Walker Kimbrough responded by making both of her chances on the same situation.
Maryland's eighth steal of the game gave Howard a chance at the line. The junior made one of two to reach a season high 16 points and put Maryland up by a dozen. Mincy's three pointer with 2:39 left did more than open Maryland's lead to 13, it gave her 26 points for the night -- a new career high. Walker-Kimbrough had 16 and Brown added 14 to join Howard and Mincy in double figures.
Mincy added a pair of free throws and Indiana scored some late baskets as the Terps milked the clock and closed out a perfect 15-0 season at Xfinity Center with an 83-72 win. The chase for a perfect 18-0 Big Ten season concludes Sunday when Maryland travels to Evanston to face a 21-win Northwestern Wildcats team that led by eight at Rutgers at the time of this story's publication. And a win is not a given. As Frese said after the game, "Northwestern's a great team. It's going to be their senior day and they're going to be ready to play. We're going to have to play better than we did tonight, I'll tell you that. If we play like this, we're not going to get it."
Correction and Update: Rutgers played at Northwestern. Update: Final NW 80 RU 60