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MSU women's basketball falls to Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament championship game, 60-44

March 6, 2016
Head coach Suzy Merchant reacts to a call during the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game against the University of Maryland on March 6, 2016 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Spartans were defeated by the Terrapins, 60-44.
Head coach Suzy Merchant reacts to a call during the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game against the University of Maryland on March 6, 2016 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Spartans were defeated by the Terrapins, 60-44. —
Photo by Nic Antaya | and Nic Antaya The State News

INDIANAPOLIS—All hands were on deck for both No. 19 MSU and No. 5 Maryland on Sunday in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. It was expected to be a huge game from the get-go with the Spartans entering the tournament as a No. 3 seed and Maryland as the No. 1 seed. Only one team would emerge victorious, and on Sunday it was the reigning Terrapins who would claim the title of 2016 Big Ten Tournament champions by a final score of 60-44.

The first quarter of the game on Sunday set the tone for the following quarters, both teams would go back and forth in offensive gridlock. MSU would own the first two scores of the contest and get off to a 4-0 lead thanks to senior center Jasmine hines and senior guard Akyah Taylor. Maryland would get back in the game with back-to-back scores by guards Chloe Pavlech and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough from three to make it 5-4. Both teams would counter the opposing score but the Spartans edged the Terrapins out in the first quarter and would take a 14-12 lead into the second.

The rhythm set in the first quarter would be nearly identical in the second. Both teams would take turns scoring, a 3-pointer from Pavlech with 4:49 left in the half would give Maryland a 21-19 lead, their first of the quarter. That three would be Maryland’s last score for nearly five minutes while MSU would go on 7-0 run, but with 0:09 left in the half Walker-Kimbrough drained a three to make the score 26-24 and take it to halftime.

MSU’s entire offensive presence was without junior guard Aerial Powers, who went scoreless in the first half. The Spartans’ biggest offensive contributor would come from junior guard Tori Jankoska. Jankoska made 4-of-8 shots including two 3-pointers to finish the half with 10 points and six rebounds. The Terps would find the bulk of their offense from Walker-Kimbrough, with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Much like the first half, the score would continue to go back and forth in the third.  Foul trouble and turnovers for MSU would help Maryland go on a 14-2 run spanning over four minutes to give the Terrapins a 38-30 lead.  Powers would finally score in the third, with consecutive jumpers to cut Maryland’s lead to four points.  By the end of the third Maryland was up by six, 42-36.

Already down by six, the hole the Spartans would get bigger as Maryland’s Brene Moseley opened up scoring in the fourth with a long 3-point shot. On top of that, back to back scores from senior forward Tierney Pfirman would give the Terrapins a 51-38 lead with 6:01 to play.  Maryland's would extend their lead to 17 before the end of regulation before Powers would stop the bleeding with a lay up with 0:53 remaining.

Powers finished with eight points, going 3-for-12 from the floor.  Jankoska finished with 12 points and eight boards.  Powers set a record for most points in a single-season with 656 on the year.  Her eight point performance broke the same record she established last season.

Although the conference tournament is now set in stone there is still basketball to be played. Both teams have earned spots in the NCAA tournament with their top-25 rankings this season. The first two rounds of March Madness will be from March 18-21. Final seedings have yet to be determined.

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