Brionna Jones leads Maryland women past Purdue for third straight Big Ten championship

The Washington Post
The Maryland women's basketball team beat Purdue 74-64 to win its third straight Big Ten title.

Another masterful performance from Brionna Jones yielded another Big Ten tournament championship for the fourth-ranked Maryland women’s basketball team.

This time the senior center had her way with Purdue during a 74-64 victory Sunday night at Bankers Life Field House. Jones scored 18 of her game-high 27 points in the second half and added 12 rebounds, five blocks and three assists to lead the top-seeded Terrapins (30-2) to their third consecutive Big Ten tournament championship in as many seasons.

Maryland is the only program in Big Ten history to have won both the regular season and tournament titles in three straight years. The Terps are 58-3 in the conference since joining in 2014, after having secured an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. They also became the first team since 2011 to win three straight conference tournament crowns.

In a typically efficient showing, Jones made 11 of 13 field goals in scoring at least 21 points for a fourth time in five games and was named tournament most outstanding player. Freshman guard Destiny Slocum added 14 points and seven assists as the Terps shot 52 percent, marking the seventh time in eight games they have shot at least that well from the field.

Maryland limited the No. 5 seed Boilermakers to 38 percent shooting overall and just 5-for-18 (28 percent) from 3point range. Senior guard Ashley Morrissette (18 points) and freshman guard Andreona Keys (15) were the only Purdue players to score in double figures.

It was the Terps' ninth win against Purdue in 10 all-time meetings. Maryland had beaten the Boilermakers in the teams’ lone meeting during this regular season, 85-70, in West Lafayette, Ind.

With Jones leading the charge, Maryland forged its largest lead of the game, 69-48, with 6:06 left in regulation. Jones had seven points during a 12-2 run that resulted in that 21-point buffer, and the Terps' advantage never dipped below double figures the rest of the way.

A run coming out of halftime enabled the Terps to build a 51-38 lead with 5:07 to play in the third quarter. Jones either scored or assisted on 10 of Maryland’s 12 points in that time, and began the rush with a driving layup while drawing a foul. She made the bonus and soon after scored on a layup.

Jones then had assists on guard Kristen Confroy’s third 3-pointer of the game and guard Kaila Charles’s layup, leading to a timeout from Purdue Coach Sharon Versyp. The teams traded baskets the rest of the way, with the Terrapins holding a 57-46 margin heading into the fourth quarter.

Facing a one-point deficit midway through the second quarter, Maryland scored 11 in a row on the way to a 39-35 advantage at halftime. Stephanie Jones, the younger sister of Brionna, and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough each had two baskets during the burst that concluded with 2:04 to play to put the Terrapins ahead, 37-27.

But Purdue closed the half with a pair of three-pointers, including Dominique Oden’s buzzer beater while falling away from deep in the right corner. It was the only field goal of the first half for Oden, the second leading scorer for the Boilermakers.

A 3-pointer from Slocum, her third of the first half, put Maryland in front, 24-16, with 8:51 remaining until intermission. But several sloppy possessions thereafter resulted in turnovers and allowed the opportunistic Boilermakers to embark on an 8-0 surge with field goals from four players. Andreona Keys’s layup tied the score at 24 with 6:47 to play.

The largest lead in the first quarter belonged to Maryland, when it went ahead, 12-7, with 4:20 to go on Charles’ turnaround jumper off the glass and a three-point play from Jones. Charles was among four freshmen Frese used in the first quarter, showing her trust in the heralded group featuring three McDonald’s all-Americans.

Slocum was named one of them, and she put the Terrapins back in front, 18-14, with back-to-back 3-pointers to close the scoring in the first quarter. The Boilermakers had taken the lead, 14-12, on a 3-pointer from Morrissette and layups by Dominique McBryde and Bridget Perry.

Purdue had advanced to its 14th Big Ten tournament final by upsetting top-seeded Ohio State, 71-60, in Saturday’s semifinals behind stifling defense. The Boilermakers, for instance, limited two-time conference player of the year Kelsey Mitchell to a season-low nine points on 3-for-22 shooting, including just 1-for-12 on 3-pointers.

The nine-time tournament champions entered with the top-ranked scoring defense in the conference, allowing just 58.4 points per game. They also are second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (37.4) behind only Northwestern.

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