COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — First, there was the trophy presentation to Maryland for finishing in first place in the Big Ten.
Then, seniors Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had their jersey numbers lifted to the rafters of the arena in recognition of their outstanding play over the past four years.
Members of Maryland’s women’s basketball team pose with a Big Ten trophy after clinching at least a share of the conference’s regular-season title after winning an NCAA college basketball game against Minnesota 93-60, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in College Park, Md. Maryland will enter the conference tournament as the second seed if Ohio State defeated Rutgers later on Sunday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
“To have all that happen on the same day, you couldn’t ask for a better way to end the regular season,” Jones said after No. 2 Maryland romped past Minnesota 93-60 on Sunday.
Jones had 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Walker-Kimbrough tallied 27 points and six assists. Seeing their numbers on banners hanging from the roof was special, but the duo took more delight in finishing no worse than tied atop the Big Ten standings.
“Being that the Big Ten regular season title was one of our goals, it’s really cool to see everything play out,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “This ride is far from over, but we’re 1-for-1 right now.”
Maryland forward Brianna Fraser, left, blocks a shot attempt by Minnesota guard Kenisha Bell in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Maryland has won at least a share of the conference regular-season title in each of its three years in the Big Ten. This week, the Terrapins (27-2, 15-1) will set out to win the conference tournament for the third year in a row.
Maryland will enter as the second seed if Ohio State defeated Rutgers later on Sunday. Although the Terrapins will be recognized as the regular season co-champions, the Buckeyes would be the No. 1 seed by virtue of their 98-87 victory over Maryland on Monday.
None of that took the luster off the trophy presentation and the banner-raising ceremony.
“Obviously, I’m extremely proud of our team, and to be able to send our seniors on such an incredible day,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I’m proud of the consistency factor, when you talk about back-to-back-to-back regular season titles.
Eager to rebound from its second loss of the season and send their seniors out in style, the Terps wasted little time taking control against the struggling Golden Gophers (14-15, 5-11).
“We knew we were coming into a hostile environment, no question,” Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings said.
Maryland made 10 of 14 shots in the first quarter in building a 26-12 lead, upped the margin to 27 points with three minutes left in the first half and cruised to the finish.
“That first quarter, we dug quite a hole,” Stollings said.
Kenisha Bell led Minnesota with 18 points. The Golden Gophers will enter the Big Ten tournament coming off three straight lopsided losses.
Jones scored 16 points before halftime and Walker-Kimbrough added 15 to stake Maryland to a 51-30 lead. Walker-Kimbrough had eight points and two assists in the third quarter, enabling the Terrapins to bring a 27-point cushion into the final period.
The fourth quarter was a prelude to the postgame ceremony for Jones — now the third-leading rebounder in school history with 1,139 — and Walker-Kimbrough, who’s fifth on the Maryland career scoring list with 2,036 points.
Both left to a standing ovation with 3:46 left.
“These guys, they work so hard that they make it look so easy,” Frese said. “The thing is, it’s not easy.”
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers can’t hang with the top teams in the Big Ten and finished with their worst regular-season record in the conference since 2010-11.
Maryland: The Terrapins can expect to drop in the rankings because of Monday’s defeat, but this blowout shows they’re still very capable of winning a third straight Big Ten tournament and going deep in the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota: Opens Big Ten tournament play on Thursday as the 10th seed. “We’re going to go in with the idea it’s 0-0, let’s try to get on a run,” Stollings said.
Maryland: Begins Big Ten tournament play on Friday.