Terps face Michigan State with trip to conference final on the line

Feature Photo courtesy of Maryland Atheltics

Back on March 6, 2016, Maryland and Michigan State met in the Big Ten Championship game, and the Terps came out on top 60-44, claiming their second-consecutive conference tournament title.

On Saturday, the Terps and Spartans will meet again in the Big Ten tournament — this time with a trip to the conference title game on the line.

The Spartans, the No. 6 seed in this year’s tournament, have already won two games in Indianapolis. They defeated 11th-seeded Wisconsin 70-63 on Thursday, and then took down third-seeded Michigan 74-64 on Friday.

In its quarterfinal victory over Michigan, Michigan State’s scoring was much more balanced than usual. Senior guard Tori Jankoska, who is averaging 22.2 points per game this season, scored only 14 points, while freshman forward Victoria Gaines led the team in scoring. She tallied 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, proving the danger of Michigan State when Jankoska isn’t the only option.

Jankoska, however, has had her success against the Terps. In the teams’ only matchup this season, the senior scored 23 points and nailed five 3-pointers. Despite Jankoska’s hot shooting, the Terps came away with an 89-72 win on Feb. 12 in East Lansing.

In that victory over the Spartans, Brenda Frese’s team relied on its three veterans. Brionna Jones scored a game-high 28 points on 9-of-12 shooting, and dominated the post for almost 40 minutes, while the experienced guards did their work on the perimeter. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough tallied 24 points and Kristen Confroy added 10 points without missing a shot.

The Terps will  look to rely on those seniors again, especially Jones, in Saturday’s matchup. In addition to making nine baskets back in February, Jones also got to the free throw line with ease. She made 10 of her 13 free-throw attempts in that game, the biggest difference in the 17-point win.

In last year’s victory in the title game, Maryland didn’t get off to a great start, and trailed at halftime. That is something that is sticking with the Terps as the games get more important in this year’s tournament.

“The memory, that was probably our not-so-good first half against Michigan State in the championship,” Walker-Kimbrough said last week. “So, just being able to set the tone early in each and every game, not taking any game lightly, and being efficient in our minutes. Me and Bri try to lead by example in each game.”

A hot start, like the one the Terps got off to in their 92-80 win over Minnesota on Friday, will be important in every postseason game going forward.

The Big Ten semifinal game between the Terps and Spartans will tip off at 6:30 on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The matchup can be seen on Big Ten Network.

Connor Newcomb
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Connor Newcomb

Connor is a journalism major from Fallston, Maryland. Aside from TLB, he has also worked for Maryland Baseball Network, WMUC Sports and Fish Stripes on SB Nation. It is said that he will never be truly happy until the Orioles win a World Series in his lifetime. He reminds you to never bunt.
Connor Newcomb
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About Connor Newcomb 102 Articles
Connor is a journalism major from Fallston, Maryland. Aside from TLB, he has also worked for Maryland Baseball Network, WMUC Sports and Fish Stripes on SB Nation. It is said that he will never be truly happy until the Orioles win a World Series in his lifetime. He reminds you to never bunt.