Maryland women's basketball clinched its second consecutive Big Ten regular-season title on Sunday with a 110-77 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The No. 6 Terps finish the regular season 27-3 overall and 16-2 in conference play.
It was senior day in College Park, and Tierney Pfirman had the best game of her 4-year Maryland tenure. She erupted for a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds. Chloe Pavlech had by far her best game of the season, with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough got theirs, as well. Jones was 10-of-12 from the field and scored 24 points, while Walker-Kimbrough recorded 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The team played perhaps its best game all year. The 110 points are a season-high, and the Terps outrebounded a tiny Minnesota team 53-23. Maryland shot 57.5 percent from the field (67.5 percent in the second half) and scored 56 points in the paint to the Gophers' 18.
The Terps began the game with four seniors and Walker-Kimbrough, and they played suffocating defense early on. Minnesota missed its first 4 shots (all three-pointers) and quickly fell behind 6-0. Banham scored 5 unanswered points, but then Maryland answered with 6 straight to force a timeout. The Gophers had 6 turnovers in the first 7 minutes. However, the scoring went back-and-forth throughout the period, with the Terps ultimately taking a 25-19 lead into the second. Pfirman led the team with 9 points in the quarter.
Banham had 9 of her own in the first but picked up a pair of early fouls. She started the second period on the bench, and although the Terps were stone-cold from long range, Brionna Jones dominated in the paint. Maryland had extended its lead to 37-25 by the time Banham checked back in, and played even more dominant basketball at the tail end of the half. Despite missing 11 of 12 threes (Pavlech was the only one to connect), the Terps led 52-34 at halftime thanks to a 26-10 advantage in the paint and 29-14 on the glass.
Maryland kept the foot on the gas in the third. Not only did the Terps continue to obliterate the Gophers inside, but the jumpers started falling, as well: 4 of the team's 5 three-point attempts found the bottom of the net in the frame. The highlight came when Pfirman scored 8 consecutive points in a 3-possession stretch, surpassing her career high in the process. The Terps led by as many as 33 in the quarter and took an 82-54 lead into the fourth.
The final quarter was little more than a show for the home crowd, which was as large and loud as it had been all year. The margin surpassed 40 points, which nobody really expected against a great offensive team in Minnesota. Fans stuck around, though, because there was a championship trophy to be presented.
Three things to know
1. Maryland is the regular-season Big Ten champion. The Terps were favored to win the league at the start of the season, but two losses to Ohio State left them a game behind the Buckeyes entering this week. However, Ohio State suffered gut-wrenching losses to Minnesota and Michigan State this week to drop them to 15-3 in the conference. Maryland will be the top seed in next week's tournament.
2. Senior Day brought a change in the starting lineup. The four seniors all started together alongside Walker-Kimbrough. It was Brene Moseley's first start of the season and Pfirman's second. Brionna Jones started the game on the bench for the first time since her freshman year, but entered for Howard two minutes in.
3. Minnesota's guards did their thing, but it didn't matter. Rachel Banham scored 26, including 9 in the first and 15 in the third, while Joanna Hedstrom and Carlie Wagner notched 21 and 17, respectively. The Gophers are a bubble team that finished Big Ten play 11-7, but the Terps were too much for them today.