Maryland women’s basketball has exacted its revenge against Michigan State, and its 71-55 win on Friday afternoon sends the Terrapins to the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Back on Jan. 17, the Spartans dominated en route to a 77-60 blowout, giving the Terps their second (and worst) loss of the season. But the postseason is a different animal, and on the big stage, Maryland—which never trailed—showed just how good it can be.
Kaila Charles was invisible back in mid-January, scoring just three points on 1-of-5 shooting with four fouls. And to kick off the tournament, she was well on her way to another poor showing, missing seven of her first eight field goals. But in the third quarter, Charles made four straight field goals on the way to a 14-point period. On the day, she finished with a game-high 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting—including 9-of-12 from the charity stripe—with 10 rebounds and five assists to lead the Terps. Stephanie Jones finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting with 11 rebounds, while Blair Watson hit three triples and tallied 11 points.
Despite what the final score would indicate, it wasn’t a pretty showing for the Terrapins. The offense was plagued with 20 turnovers for the game compared to just 12 for Michigan State. However, Maryland shot lights out with a 52.0 field goal percentage, while the No. 9 seed managed to make just 29.0 of its shots from the floor.
Maryland needed a strong start to avoid falling behind early, and it got just that thanks to the duo of Jones and Taylor Mikesell. The former scored the first six points of the game to give the Terps a four-point lead just two minutes into the game, and then the freshman hit a pair of three-pointers to take a 15-8 advantage with over three minutes to go into the period.
The Spartans cut their deficit to four at the end of the first quarter, but Watson’s three to kick off the second quarter grew the lead back to seven, and a physical and-one layup from Brianna Fraser a couple minutes later pushed the score to 29-17. With 3:30 to go, Mikesell’s layup put Maryland up by 15 points, and it seemed as though a blowout was in store.
But the Spartans fought back thanks to the play of Jenna Allen. Michigan State hit back-to-back three-pointers in a 20-second span to get the deficit to nine points, and scoring six straight over the final two and a half minutes saw the once-large Maryland lead dwindle to 35-31 at the break. The Spartans closed the half on a 12-1 run, with seven of those points coming from the senior center alone.
Nia Clouden scored the first points of the second half to cut Maryland’s lead to a paltry two points, but the Terrapins found the perfect moment to go on their patented nuclear run to blow a team out of the water. Over the course of the next four minutes, the No. 1 seed scored 11 straight points to bring the lead back over double digits. Allen stopped the bleeding momentarily with a midrange jumper, but the Terps then answered with a 10-2 run to bring the lead to 19 points, taking a 60-41 advantage into the final 10 minutes.
The game was already over at that point, and despite growing the lead as high as 25 in the fourth quarter, Michigan State ended the game on a 9-0 run to make the final score a bit more respectable.
Three things to know
1. Maryland started strong and never trailed. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Terrapins were behind for 39:27. They faced a 10-point deficit after 10 minutes and were never able to overcome it. But this time around, it was exactly the opposite. Maryland didn’t trail at all and was tied for only 94 seconds of game time, and while Michigan State made a pair of runs in the first and second quarters, they were never enough.
2. Brianna Fraser played and was solid. Less than three minutes into the game against Minnesota on Feb. 21, Fraser sprained her left ankle and hadn’t returned to live-game action until Friday. And while she played just 13 minutes, the senior forward looked rejuvenated and didn’t seem limited in her time on the court. She finished with seven points on 3-of-3 shooting while converting an and-one, and she also added four rebounds, an assist and a block. She didn’t dominate, but her addition to the rotation was certainly a sight for sore eyes.
3. On to the next. Maryland will have 27 hours to rest and recover before its next game, the first semifinal matchup of the Big Ten tournament. The Terrapins don’t know their opponent just yet, but it’ll either be against Michigan or Wisconsin. They’ve beaten both of these teams already—an 83-69 win over the Wolverines on Jan. 12, and a 75-57 beatdown of the Badgers on Jan. 31—but in the postseason, all records and past results go out the window. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET Saturday and the game can be watched on the Big Ten Network.