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Ohio State deals No. 5 Terps women another Big Ten loss

Maryland's Malina Howard, left, sets a pick for teammate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, right, as she dribbles past Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) ORG XMIT: OHJL106
Maryland's Malina Howard, left, sets a pick for teammate Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, right, as she dribbles past Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) ORG XMIT: OHJL106 (Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

The fifth-ranked Maryland women's basketball team had waited more than a month for another crack at No. 7 Ohio State, the only team since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten last season to deal them a conference loss.

The stakes in the rematch on Monday night included first place in the league, the inside track on the top seed in the conference tournament and remaining in the mix for perhaps a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

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Plus, Maryland Coach Brenda Frese indicated last week she was eager to learn if her players possessed the mental resolve to outlast their most demanding Big Ten opponent on the road in front of an unforgiving crowd at Value City Arena.

A 94-86 loss instead revealed major flaws in the reigning Big Ten champions. It also signaled a shift in the conference's power structure, with the Buckeyes' season sweep of Maryland making them the team to beat come the Big Ten tournament in less than a month.

Maryland (21-3, 10-2) surrendered its most points this season, committed 23 turnovers and yielded a season-worst 52 percent three-point shooting (12-for-23). The Terrapins entered first in the Big Ten in three-point field goal defense (27 percent) but allowed their most three-point field goals this season. The most they had permitted previously was eight.

"You've got to learn and get better from it," Frese said following the end of Maryland's nine-game winning streak. The Buckeyes "obviously have kind of taken over in terms of where we want to be. I think for us it's not about physically. It's about mentally being able to get ourselves more prepared."

Junior center Brionna Jones led Maryland with a career-high 28 points and 11 rebounds. Senior reserve forward Tierney Pfirman added 16 points, and junior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had 14 but missed 12 of 18 from the field. Walker-Kimbrough had scored 71 points in her previous two games combined, becoming the first Maryland player to do so.

The Terrapins never led despite shooting 51 percent and holding a 47-32 buffer in rebounding, including 15-8 offensively. They also wound up well ahead in points in the paint, 50-36, but much of that came with the outcome all but decided after Maryland failed to string together a meaningful run in the second half.

"I think we beat ourselves tonight," Pfirman said. "Just us being hard on ourselves and not playing the way we know how to play. I think that's what got us."

Little Maryland tried defensively bothered Buckeyes sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell. The leading candidate for Big Ten player of the year finished with a game-high 33 points, making 4 of 8 three-pointers. Senior guard Ameryst Alston chipped in 22 points, eight assists and four rebounds, and sophomore forward Alexa Hart had 17 points and seven rebounds.

Ohio State (19-4, 11-1) began to pull away for good early in the third quarter on Mitchell's three-pointer that grew the lead to eight. Maryland ran off five straight, but the Buckeyes built a 64-51 advantage with three-pointers from Alston and Asia Doss bookending two layups. After Frese called time out, Ohio State expanded the lead to 69-53 on another Doss three-pointer.

The Buckeyes continued to get touches in the paint despite their smaller lineup, pushing the margin to 75-57 with 57 seconds left in the third quarter thanks to Hart's consecutive layups, the first coming on an offensive rebound put-back, and Shayla Cooper's layup.

"Maryland's had such a great run," Buckeyes Coach Kevin McGuff said. "Obviously they just got into the Big Ten, but before that they've been so good, so consistently one of the best teams in the country, so I think it's another big win because we beat such a great team."

Maryland scored seven points in a row bridging the first and second quarters to whittle a 10-point deficit down to 24-21. The teams traded baskets for the next several minutes, and the Terrapins got within 31-29 with 6 minutes 4 seconds to go until halftime when Pfirman sank a three-pointer for the left baseline.

Walker-Kimbrough's three-pointer kept Maryland within two points, but the Buckeyes scored eight straight, including Mitchell's jumper followed by a three-pointer, for a 45-36 lead with 1:32 left before intermission. The Terrapins trailed at halftime, 47-40, for only the second time this season. The other instance was by four to top-ranked Connecticut during an 83-73 loss on Dec. 28.

"I mean it's only February," said Jones, who made 14 of 18 field goals and had three assists. "We still have a lot of basketball to go, and I think today with the turnovers and just mentally we just weren't focused throughout the game. Moving forward we're going to build upon that and get better going into the rest of the season."

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