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Maryland is back on top of the Big Ten after beating Ohio State for another tournament title



“Ugh, it’s amazing,” Charles said with a sigh.

Maryland’s leading scorer cut down her portion of the net last of all the players, so she got to keep what was left. She wore a nearly fully intact net around her neck like a medal as she posed for pictures with her teammates and spoke with reporters.

“This whole year, we fought hard. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it,” she added. “I love the fact that we did this together. It wasn’t just one person; it was everybody — somebody different every night. . . . I’m glad we finally won it. I’ve been [in the title game] four years in a row, and we lost the last two, and it hurt. It hurt. So I think my seniors who went through that, we had a big chip on our shoulder. We were motivated, and, yeah, we got the dub and went out with a bang.”

Maryland Coach Brenda Frese dedicated the season to her seniors after tipping her cap to the men’s team for claiming a share of the Big Ten regular season title earlier Sunday.

“What a great day to be a Terp!” Frese yelled into a mic.

While the 17th-year coach gave her most experienced players their due for leading the team and learning a new defense during their final year in College Park, Maryland’s first Big Ten tournament title since 2017 may signify something grander than a reward for the seniors.

The 2016-17 season had been the last time Frese had stability at point guard and abundant talent to play around with before a handful of key players transferred that spring. With this year’s depth, experience at the top of the roster and a newfound commitment to defense, Maryland made another convincing argument with Sunday’s title that it is built better for the postseason than it has been in a long time.

“Probably the biggest difference is they’ve really taken a jump defensively from past years to this year, and it’s really put them amongst the best teams in the country,” Ohio State Coach Kevin McGuff said.

Sunday’s game wasn’t complicated: The Terps’ defense kicked in during the second quarter, and the Buckeyes had neither the motor nor the depth to keep up with Frese’s cadre of offensive threats. Maryland (28-4) led by nine points at halftime and held on to its lead like a vise grip from there.

Jones led the Terps with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman point guard Ashley Owusu showed a season’s worth of growth with 17 points and a game-high 11 assists, carrying momentum from an impressive performance in the semifinals against Indiana to claim the tournament’s most outstanding player award.

“We call her ‘Cashley,’ ” Charles said.

Sophomore guard Taylor Mikesell had 12 points, and sophomore forward Shakira Austin added 14 points and eight rebounds. Watson had 11 points, and Charles added six.

Maryland’s players and coaches alike were pleased to receive another balanced effort as they turn to the NCAA tournament. They will find out their place in the bracket on Selection Monday, March 16.

“It says a lot about our depth,” Jones said, “and just the fact that everybody’s able to contribute when their number is called.”

Ohio State (21-12) played through forward Dorka Juhasz early, moving the ball efficiently around the perimeter until it could find her under the basket or deep in the left corner for a three-pointer, of which she hit two in the first quarter. The 6-foot-4 sophomore scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the first 10 minutes, helping to nudge the Buckeyes ahead 22-20 before Maryland tightened its defense in the second quarter and Jones and Owusu combined to take over.

Jones was her regular steady self and shot a perfect 5 for 5 before halftime, turning in an impeccable but understated performance. But Owusu made spectators sit up and take note, feeding off defensive stops to score in transition and rack up seven points in the second quarter as Maryland took a 44-35 lead into halftime.

The Terps held steady throughout the third quarter and got two critically timed three-pointers from Watson — whose 11 points were the most she has scored since a Jan. 26 win over Northwestern — to snuff the remaining sparks of life Ohio State showed after halftime.

“We had a lot of things we wanted to accomplish this season. This is the second one,” Frese said, referring to Maryland clinching a share of the Big Ten regular season title last week. “And now we’ve got one more to go.”

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