By Justin Fitzgerald
When Maryland played Wisconsin in Madison on Jan. 20, the Badgers failed to stop Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who combined for 44 points in a 90-65 win. The two teams met for the second time Thursday, and both players dominated again; with Walker-Kimbrough scoring 27 and Jones adding 20 in an 83-77 win.
The Terps improved to 26-3 and 15-2 in Big Ten play, while Wisconsin dropped to 7-20 and 3-14.
After scoring 22 points against the Badgers earlier this season, Walker-Kimbrough came out hot in the first half. She scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting, going 4-5 on three point field attempts. The Terps shot 8-15 on threes in the first half, and 11-20 for the game.
Jones scored just four points in the first half, but took over in the third quarter. Whether it was off a put back or a post up, Jones made her mark, scoring 12 points in the third quarter alone. She also made a key basket late in the fourth quarter, after Walker-Kimbrough missed two free throws. The layup pushed the lead back out to 11, and helped weather a late charge by the Badgers.
“In the second half I tried to lock in and focus on finishing through contact and not leaving it in the ref’s hands,” Jones said.
After leading 36-32 at halftime, Maryland started to pull away in the third going on a 10-0 run to take a 55-44 lead. The run was started by two layups from Jones and one from Walker-Kimbrough, who scored Maryland’s first 16 points of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Terps continued to pull away, and started the quarter on 11-2 run to extend the lead to 21. Frese started to empty her bench, but Wisconsin cut the lead down to nine. This prompted Frese to put Jones and Walker-Kimbrough back in the game, and they scored Maryland’s next four points.
The Badgers still wouldn’t go away, as Tessa Cichy hit a three pointer to cut Maryland’s lead to 80-72 with 1:33 left. But Chloe Pavlech, just a 20.9 percent three point shooter, answered back from beyond the arc to push the lead back to 11.
“For us to be down by as much as 20 points and come back in the fourth quarter, says a lot about these kids and their ability to not give up and stay focused,” Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey said.
It was a slow start for the Terps, who trailed 20-15 in the first quarter. They shot only 43 percent from the field, while the Badgers shot 62 percent, and made five of their first seven to get out to a 14-7 lead. Maryland trailed by as much as nine, and ended the quarter trailing 22-15.
The Terps started to take over in the second quarter, going on a 10-0 run to take a 25-22 lead. It looked like the Terps were getting ready to pull away, but the Badgers scored the next six points to retake the lead at 28-25. Maryland would not get the lead back until 1:33 left in the half when a Walker-Kimbrough three made it 33-32.
“Once we were able to pick up our defensive energy, we were able to get some things going in the first half,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said.
The Terps also committed just 13 turnovers in the game, and have averaged just 12 over their past three games after committing a season high 24 against Northwestern.
“I can see us valuing possessions in games, and that’s obviously going to matter going into March,” Frese said.
Maryland will take on Minnesota in their final regular season game on Saturday, with a chance to clinch a share of the Big Ten title after Ohio State lost to the Golden Gophers on Tuesday.
“I love the fact that you get to control your own destiny,” Frese said, “You don’t have to wait for somebody else to control it.”