Terps adding two jer­seys to the rafters

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - BY GENE WANG gene.wang@wash­post.com

In their fi­nal reg­u­lar sea­son home game as fresh­men, Mary­land women’s bas­ket­ball play­ers Sha­tori Walker-Kim­brough and Bri­onna Jones took part in a cer­e­mony honor­ing then-se­nior Alyssa Thomas.

The pro­gram’s all-time scor­ing and re­bound­ing leader had her name and num­ber un­veiled on a ban­ner that hangs per­ma­nently from the rafters at Xfin­ity Cen­ter.

At the time, nei­ther Walk­erKim­brough nor Jones, they re­cently re­called, en­vi­sioned hav­ing a ca­reer even re­motely close to what Thomas was able to ac­com­plish. Four years later, the only two se­niors for the sec­on­dranked Ter­rap­ins (26-2, 14-1 Big Ten) will be rec­og­nized in the same way fol­low­ing Sun­day’s reg­u­lar sea­son fi­nale against Min­nesota (14-14, 5-10) at noon in Col­lege Park.

“Ob­vi­ously two of the best,” Mary­land Coach Brenda Frese said. “It’s go­ing to be an­other in­cred­i­ble day, not only for se­nior day but honor­ing them with their jer­seys up into the rafters, really ev­ery­thing they’ve meant to our pro­gram when you talk about two Fi­nal Fours, four Big Ten ti­tles and still with what’s re­main­ing. They’ve just put in a lot of hard work and have done a lot of win­ning.”

Other no­table mile­stones this sea­son in­clude Jones as­cend­ing to fourth on Mary­land’s ca­reer re­bound­ing list (1,125) and Walker-Kim­brough mov­ing into fifth all-time in points (2,009). Jones is within 15 re­bounds of pass­ing Marissa Cole­man for third. Walker-Kim­brough, mean­while, needs 70 points to sur­pass Kristi To­liver for fourth in scor­ing.

As a tes­ta­ment to their con­sis­tency, Walker-Kim­brough and Jones have played in ev­ery pos­si­ble game through­out their ca­reers, with Sun­day mark­ing 136 con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ances.

Equally as im­por­tant, ac­cord­ing to Frese, has been their lead­er­ship this sea­son on a youth­ful team seek­ing a third con­sec­u­tive Big Ten reg­u­lar sea­son cham­pi­onship. A vic­tory over the Golden Go­phers would earn Mary­land a share of the ti­tle with Ohio State.

It also would put the Ter­rap­ins back on track af­ter a dis­heart­en­ing 98-87 loss to the No. 12 Buck­eyes on Mon­day night in Colum­bus, Ohio. Mary­land lost to its neme­sis for a third con­sec­u­tive time in fail­ing to se­cure the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship out­right.

Ohio State is the only school to have beaten Mary­land since Mary­land joined the Big Ten in 2014.

“That’ll be really ex­cit­ing,” Walker-Kim­brough said of hav­ing her and Jones’s num­bers hang­ing along some of Mary­land’s other all-time greats, “but I’m just really ex­cited to see how we’ll get bet­ter from the loss and see­ing that all un­fold on Sun­day.”

Walker-Kim­brough led Mary­land with 29 points against Ohio State and is sec­ond be­hind Jones this sea­son in scor­ing, av­er­ag­ing 18.2 points (Jones av­er­ages 19.2). That Walker-Kim­brough be­came one of five play­ers in school his­tory to score 2,000 points, Frese said, is the re­sult of many hours spent in the gym, mo­ti­vated in part by be­ing over­looked com­ing out of high school.

Even Walker-Kim­brough had some reser­va­tions about whether she could ex­cel at the high­est level of Divi­sion I un­til Frese Min­nesota at Mary­land To­day, noon, Big Ten Net­work made her a pri­mary tar­get in re­cruit­ing. The 5-foot-11 guard since has been named first-team all-Big Ten twice and last sea­son scored 41 points in a game, one short of match­ing the Mary­land sin­gle-game record that Cole­man and Jones share.

Jones scored 42 points this sea­son dur­ing an 89-83 win against visit­ing Penn State on Jan. 11. The 6-3 cen­ter made 15 of 19 shots in a typ­i­cally ef­fi­cient per­for­mance. Jones leads the coun­try in field goal per­cent­age (69 per­cent) af­ter do­ing the same last sea­son, when she shot 67 per­cent.

Her ca­reer field goal per­cent­age of 64.5 trails only Crys­tal Langhorne, who is No. 2 all-time for Mary­land in points and re­bounds, by a frac­tion.

As with Walker-Kim­brough, Jones said, reach­ing this point has re­quired count­less hours in the gym, as well as on the court trans­form­ing her body. When she ar­rived, fit­ness had not been a pri­or­ity. This sea­son, Jones is third on the team in min­utes played, rarely grow­ing fa­tigued de­spite de­fend­ers con­stantly jostling her for po­si­tion on the low block.

“Ini­tially I was in shock and sur­prised,” Jones said of her re­ac­tion upon watch­ing a video in­form­ing her she would have her num­ber dis­played for pos­ter­ity at Xfin­ity Cen­ter. “I had no idea that was a pos­si­bil­ity. Then when they showed the video and ev­ery­thing, at that time it didn’t sink in. I think now it’s start­ing to sink in, es­pe­cially since we have one more reg­u­lar sea­son game left.”

PATRICK SEMANSKY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bri­onna Jones, mid­dle, and Sha­tori Walker-Kim­brough (32) are Mary­land’s only two se­niors.

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