Maryland women's basketball won its fifth straight game Thursday night with an 83-77 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers.
Once again, juniors Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones shined for the Terps. The two scored 27 and 20 points, respectively, with Walker-Kimbrough notching 16 in the first half and Jones equaling that total in the second half. Tierney Pfirman chipped in 9, Kristen Confroy 8, and Brene Moseley 6 points and 10 assists. Nicole Bauman led the Badgers with 23 points and was 6-of-8 from three.
Wisconsin found a rhythm early on despite a shot-clock violation on its opening possession. The Terps, meanwhile, started cold from the field and fell behind 14-7 halfway through the first quarter. Three-pointers by Walker-Kimbrough and Confroy gave off the impression that the team would get it going, but the shots continued to stay out. Maryland shot just 6-of-17 (35.3 percent) in the opening period; in a related story, they trailed 22-15 when it ended.
The Terps seemed to flip a switch as the second quarter began, immediately going on a 10-0 run and grabbing the lead for the first time. Wisconsin reclaimed the advantage amid a slew of Maryland turnovers (there were also a few questionable jump ball calls, but we'll get into those later). The scoring was largely back and forth at the end of the half, but a pair of Walker-Kimbrough triples pushed the Terps ahead 36-32 at the intermission. The junior guard led all scorers with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first half.
Maryland gained separation midway through the third quarter, stretching the lead to double digits for the first time. Brionna Jones began to dominate inside, scoring 10 points in the first four minutes of the frame. The Terps relied much more heavily on inside scoring in the third, which also led to a spike in free throw attempts: the team went 6-of-8 from the line after not making a single trip there in the first half.
The lead was 63-51 entering the fourth, and the Terps never let Wisconsin get back in it. The margin eclipsed 20 points for the first time with just under 6 minutes left, at which point Brenda Frese began to pull the starters. However, she had to put them back in at around the 3-minute mark, as the Badgers crept back within single digits. However, despite the reasonably close final score, the game was never in real danger.
The Terps improve to 26-3 overall and 15-2 in the Big Ten with the win. The team's final regular season game is Sunday against Minnesota, and a win guarantees Maryland at least a share of the regular-season conference title.
Three things to know
1. The Terps had another subpar first quarter against Wisconsin. The Badgers are just 3-14 in conference play, but they outscored Maryland 20-15 in the opening frame on Jan. 20 and 22-15 Thursday. Of course, the Terps found their footing both times, but a pair of slow starts against this team is one of the most fascinating trends of the season.
2. The crowd grew ridiculously sarcastic in the second quarter. Early in the period, the officials called three jump balls with the Terps on offense that could easily have been whistled as fouls on Wisconsin. The arrow favored the Badgers on two of these occasions, making them de facto turnovers. Paired with Maryland's slow start, the home fans serenaded the striped crew with boos, which turned to condescending ovations when a foul was finally whistled on Wisconsin. Neither team attempted a single free throw in the first half.
3. The team was money from downtown. Maryland shot 11-of-20 (55 percent) from three-point range. It's the sixth time this season that the Terps have drained more than half of their threes. Walker-Kimbrough was 5-of-6 and is shooting an absurd 59.1 percent for the season. If she can keep it up over the next five weeks or so, this team will be very difficult to knock off.