Maryland women’s basketball is back in the Big Ten Tournament final, and will be taking on No. 1-seed Ohio State looking for a Big Ten-record fourth straight conference tournament championship.
The Terps defeated No. 7-seed Indiana and No. 3-seed Nebraska by an identical 13 points, although both games were very different. The Hoosiers fought Maryland tooth-and-nail before fading in the final minutes after a four-overtime game the night before, and the Terps had a double-digit lead for more than half of their win over the Huskers.
The balance on offense was different in those wins as well. Charles was a one-woman show against Indiana, while Maryland had four players with at least 13 points against Nebraska.
The Buckeyes are into the Big Ten tournament final for the first time since 2015, when they lost to Maryland, 77-74. This is the ninth tournament championship appearance for the Buckeyes, who are 5-3 in Big Ten title games and are looking for their first Big Ten tournament title since 2011.
Ohio State crushed No. 8-seed Rutgers, 82-57, in the quarterfinals and won a nail-biter against No. 4-seed Minnesota in the semifinals, 90-88. The Buckeyes relied on their stars against the Gophers, with Kelsey Mitchell scoring 30 points and dishing out nine assists and Stephanie Mavunga posting a ridiculous line of 26 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocks.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m ET, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
What happened last time
Everything went right for Maryland, and everything went wrong for Ohio State. The Terps blitzkreiged the Buckeyes from the start, and never let up in a 99-69 win on Jan. 22. Eleanna Christinaki was red-hot in the first half on her way to 26 points, and Kaila Charles took over in the second half and finished with a career-high 32 points. Maryland shot 55 percent from the field, and hit 11-of-18 three-point attempts.
Ohio State had uncharacteristic misses all night, shooting 39 percent from the field and hitting just 6-of-22 three-pointers. Mitchell was held to 15 points on 13 shots, and Mavunga was limited to 10 points and eight rebounds.
What’s happened since
Ohio State lost at Iowa three days later, but only lost once the rest of the season, an 84-65 shellacking at South Florida on Feb. 11. It won its last eight Big Ten games, which was enough to pass Maryland in the standings and win a second straight Big Ten regular season title.
Since dropping games to Michigan, Maryland and Iowa in mid-January, the Buckeyes have been much-improved on the defensive end. They allowed 95.3 points per game during the three-game skid, and have given up just 64.2 points per game since.
Three things to watch
- How much does Maryland look to push the tempo? Brenda Frese likes to run and get out in transition, but the Terps have scored over 80 points just once since beating the Buckeyes. Maryland’s last two opponents have looked to take as much time off the possible on the shot clock, and Ohio State will try to do just the opposite.
- Will Asia Doss play? Like Kristen Confroy, Doss is the glue player for Ohio State, averaging eight points, 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game. The senior is currently day-to-day with a sprained ankle, and Alexa Hart has started the last two games in her place.
- Can Maryland finds its stroke from outside? The Terps have gone 3-for-16 from beyond the arc, and only Channise Lewis has hit a three since the team landed in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes have hit 14-of-33 three-point attempts in the tournament, and Maryland is in trouble if they shoot that well in this one.