INDIANAPOLIS (AP)One of the best teams in women’s college basketball went bananas.
Following sixth-ranked Maryland’s 66-51 win over No. 20 Indiana on Saturday night to advance to the Big Ten tournament championship game, the Terrapins’ coaches and players celebrated by holding bananas in the air and participating in a singsong chant.
“Peel to the left, peel to the right, peel down the middle, and we all take a bite!”
“Peel” is the name for one of Maryland’s defensive coverages. Coach Brenda Freese and her staff emphasized it in a pregame film session, and the Terrapins executed to near-perfection in a stifling defensive performance that limited Indiana to 33% shooting.
“I think what makes this team so special is how they play for one another,” Freese said.
Freshman Diamond Miller scored 15 points and classmate Ashley Owusu added 14 with five rebounds for the Terrapins, who improved to 27-4. They have won 16 in a row, the last 11 coming by double figures.
“They’re long,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “They’re athletic. We just couldn’t score enough.”
The top seed broke open a tightly contested semifinal affair with a 17-0 run in the third quarter. While pushing their lead from 28-26 to 45-26, the Terps held Indiana (24-8) scoreless on 10 consecutive possessions.
Indiana leading scorer Ali Patberg finished with 16 points, matching her average, but endured a 6-of-21 shooting night.
“We knew going into this game Patberg was really hot,” Freese said. “We wanted to make her have to work for everything. I thought our zone kind of changed the game. I thought it gave them more defenders to have to look at, and I thought that was probably the difference.”
Offense proved particularly difficult to come by in a first half that ended with Maryland ahead 28-24.
Indiana tied the score at 21 on a Patberg 3 early in the second quarter, but Maryland responded with a 7-0 run consisting of shots in the lane by Miller and Owusu and a three-point play by Shakira Austin off of a fast-break opportunity. The Hoosiers went scoreless on seven straight trips during that sequence.
“They’re going to go far in the NCAA Tournament,” said Kaila Charles, who had 11 points and eight rebounds for Maryland. “They’re a great team. (We were) just making sure to lock in on defense.”
Indiana: The Hoosiers are 0-10 all time against Maryland and must figure out a way to solve the Terps in order to further ascend the conference hierarchy.
Maryland: The Terrapins showed once more how their height and length bother opposing offenses. Indiana entered shooting 47% from the field this season but never looked comfortable in a half-court setting against Maryland.
Indiana: Grace Berger finished with 10 points, seven assists and six boards. … The Hoosiers’ largest lead was at 9-7 on a first-quarter 3-pointer by Patberg. … Trailed 16-13 entering the second quarter and 50-33 entering the fourth.
Maryland: Held Indiana’s Jaelynn Penn and Brenna Wise, who entered averaging 19 points combined, to nine between them. … Improved to 15-2 all time at the Big Ten tournament. … Seeking to win the tourney for a fourth time.
Indiana: Will wait to find out their NCAA Tournament draw when the bracket is revealed March 16.
Maryland: Advance to Sunday’s Big Ten championship game to face the winner of Saturday night’s Michigan-Ohio State contest.