Before Wednesday night’s game against Penn State, Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese showed her team a video about having the right mindset and getting in the zone. Brionna Jones appeared to get that message loud and clear.
Almost every team has failed to stop the 6’3 senior this season, and Penn State didn’t come close. Jones scored on layups and putbacks at will, and also did a great job getting to the free throw line. When the final buzzer sounded, she finished with 42 points on 15-of-19 shooting from the floor and 12-of-14 from the foul line.
Jones shattered her previous career high of 30 set earlier this season against Saint Peter’s, and also tied Marissa Coleman’s school record for most points in a game.
“Tonight she was the hot hand, and almost every night she’s the hot hand,” freshman point guard Destiny Slocum said. “It makes our offense just flow so much better.”
Jones was locked in, but the same could not be said for the rest of the team. For parts of tonight’s game, Penn State made the Terps look pedestrian. The Nittany Lions hit early three-pointers to take the lead, did just enough defensively to make Maryland out of sync, and crashed the boards harder than most teams do against the Terps.
Without Jones’s monster game, the Lions had the recipe for an upset.
“She always does a good job of working,” Penn State assistant coach Tamika Jeter said of Jones. “We wanted to move her off the block where she had two feet in the paint, just try to make it tough.”
The Terps make it a priority to get her the ball, which is something Jeter noticed throughout the game.
“With their offense, they give her two, three, four looks, which is great offense,” Jeter said. “When you have someone like that in a possession, it’s very hard to guard when you get two, three, four looks because as soon as you get one pass, they’re throwing it and trying to get in. And then if she doesn’t have that she can cut across the paint.”
Although Jones almost single-handedly powered the Terps to a win, she did not want to put praise on herself, instead deflecting it to her teammates. She also said that when she went to the line with less than a minute left she had no idea she was close to the record, as she was just trying to get her team the win.
Jones makes it sound so simple, but it never is. She has come a long way in her time at Maryland, coming into College Park with a torn ACL and not completely ready to see major minutes. After improving every year, Jones has established herself as one of the best, if not the best, centers in the country.
In addition to the scoring onslaught, Jones finished with 14 rebounds, good for her seventh double-double in a row. She passed the 1,000-rebound milestone, becoming the fifth Maryland player to do so.
“She makes it a lot easier, especially to have a big who can go catch anything and get her own rebounds and score again,” Slocum said. “It makes our offense flow that much better.”