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Maryland celebrates second straight Big Ten tournament championship

By Emily Kennedy | @Emily_AKennedy

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — As confetti began to cover the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the embraces had already begun. Maryland Terrapins Malina Howard and Brionna Jones hugged. Tierney Pfirman and Kristen Confroy had locked hands in celebration.

In the championship game of the 2016 Big Ten Women’s Basketball tournament, Maryland won its second tournament title in the school’s second season in the conference by convincingly defeating the Michigan State Spartans, 60-44. Maryland (30-3) became the fourth program in tournament history to win championships in back-to-back years.

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, a junior guard who was named Most Outstanding Player, led the Terrapins with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jones, a junior center, scored 10 points with 14 rebounds and six steals. Walker-Kimbrough and Jones made the all-tournament team with Michigan State’s Aerial Powers, Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell and Northwestern’s Nia Coffey.

Powers, who had averaged 22.3 points per game, was held to 8 points on 3-of-12 shooting. This was Maryland’s lowest-scoring game of the season. The Terrapins scored 62 in a victory over South Dakota State on Nov. 27.

Maryland held Michigan State to a championship game record-low 44 points, three points fewer than the previous low set by the Spartans in a 62-47 loss to Purdue in 2013.

Maryland senior Brene Moseley’s eyes appeared to have tears of joy as her teammates moved in to hug and congratulate her. Moseley finished the game with 10 points and six assists.

After the championship trophy was presented, the Terrapins ran toward the baseline at the north end of the court to celebrate with the Maryland band. The players were dancing, smiling, and just enjoying this win for what it is — a school victory.

“They are just such big supporters of us; we don’t get a huge student section at games, so they are kind of our numbers,” Confroy said. “They love traveling with us, they love interacting with us, so we just wanted to give it back to them.”

“Freakin’ awesome,” one of the Terrapins yelled as the group paused to take a selfie with the band and cheerleaders. The team will have to wait more than a week to see if the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships could earn the Terrapins a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. As the celebration began, the players has other concerns on their minds.

“I don’t have class tomorrow, but I have a make-up exam,” said Pfirman, who was looking forward to laying around and catching up on Netflix. She said she is in the middle of a Grey’s Anatomy marathon.

Pfirman, Howard, Moseley, and Chloe Pavlech are the four seniors on this team. Howard, Moseley, and Pavlech graduated last May but are currently completing post-graduate work.

“I have class tomorrow at 10 a.m.,” said Confroy, a sophomore.

Maryland Coach Brenda Frese was looking ahead to the NCAA seeding process. “I look at our body of work,” Frese said. “We’re 30-3 and no bad losses. So when you talk about just — you know, for us it’s really not about the seed. It’s really your bracket. Through all of the years, as we have been placed, one through four, different numbers, it’s really about your bracket and different matchups.”

The Terrapins played in the Final Four last year but were eliminated in an 81-58 loss to national champion Connecticut.

On Sunday, Michigan State took a 26-24 lead and became the fourth team this season to lead the Terrapins at halftime. But the Spartans (24-8) made just 25 percent of their shots in the second half.

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