Terps’ se­nior stand­outs aim for a bet­ter end­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - NCAA TOURNAMENT - BY GENE WANG gene.wang@wash­post.com

Sha­tori Walker-Kim­brough vividly re­calls the dis­heart­en­ing at­mos­phere in the locker room last sea­son af­ter the Mary­land women’s bas­ket­ball team lost in the sec­ond round of the NCAA tour­na­ment to Washington.

Walker-Kim­brough had led the Ter­rap­ins with 17 points and 11 re­bounds but said re­cently she wished she could have con­trib­uted more in pre­vent­ing Mary­land’s ear­li­est exit since 2011. That mo­ment of re­gret, she added, is in part what con­tin­ues to push her and fel­low se­nior Bri­onna Jones to en­sure third-seeded Mary­land ad­vances far deeper this sea­son.

The Ter­rap­ins (31-2) will re­sume their quest on Sun­day af­ter­noon in fac­ing No. 6 seed West Vir­ginia (24-10) at Xfinity Cen­ter for a berth in the Sweet 16 in the Bridge­port Re­gion, where Con­necti­cut is the top over­all seed in the NCAA tour­na­ment. Mary­land is seek­ing to reach the re­gional semi­fi­nals for the sixth time in seven sea­sons and ninth time over­all since Coach Brenda Frese ar­rived in 2002.

“I feel like me per­son­ally, I kind of let [last year’s se­niors] down in that game be­cause we lost, and it shouldn’t have ended that way with all hard work they put in,” Walker-Kim­brough said of the 7465 result. “I know a lit­tle piece of me ded­i­cates this sea­son to them be­ing what hap­pened to their sea­son last year.”

Walker-Kim­brough and Jones are set to play their fi­nal game at Xfinity Cen­ter, where Mary­land is 16-3 in the NCAA tour­na­ment. Both are among the most dec­o­rated play­ers in pro­gram his­tory and had ban­ners with their names and jer­sey num­bers un­veiled from the arena rafters, join­ing other all-time greats such as Alyssa Thomas, Kristi Toliver, Crys­tal Langhorne and Marissa Cole­man.

The duo com­bined for 53 points dur­ing Fri­day’s 103-61 win against No. 14 seed Buck­nell in the first round. Walker-Kim­brough’s 28 points were one short of match­ing her sea­son high, and she made 12 of 18 shots in her first game since go­ing just 2 for 9 with a sea­son-low seven points dur­ing a 74-64 vic­tory over Pur­due in the Big Ten tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship game on March 5.

Walker-Kim­brough is fourth in ca­reer scor­ing at Mary­land with 2,121 points, trail­ing Cole­man by 84 for third place. She’s one of five play­ers in school his­tory to have amassed 2,000 points.

Jones made 11 of 17 shots against the Bi­son, in­clud­ing seven of her fi­nal eight field goal at­tempts, and grabbed a game­high 10 re­bounds for her 23rd dou­ble-dou­ble this sea­son and 56th of her ca­reer. She is third all-time at Mary­land in re­bound­ing (1,183), need­ing 47 to pass Langhorne for sec­ond place.

Both Walker-Kim­brough and Jones are three-time first-team all-Big Ten selections. Jones also was named the Big Ten tour­na­ment most out­stand­ing player this sea­son af­ter av­er­ag­ing 24 points and 11 re­bounds over three games. Walker-Kim­brough won the award last sea­son.

“I think the big­gest mem­ory I have is af­ter last year’s game [against Washington in the NCAA tour­na­ment] was over know­ing that this was our se­niors’ last game and all the hard work they had put into our pro­gram here,” Jones said. “They had a great four years, and just to have it end like that for them, I think that was the most dis­ap­point­ing thing for me.”

Jones has said she ad­di­tion­ally was dis­pleased with her un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally sub­par show­ing, fin­ish­ing with a sea­son-low four points on 2-for-7 shoot­ing. She av­er­aged 15 points and 10 re­bounds last sea­son while lead­ing Di­vi­sion I in field goal shoot­ing at a frac­tion below 67 per­cent.

Her 69.5 shoot­ing per­cent­age this sea­son leads the coun­try again, and her av­er­age of 20 points per game is a ca­reer best. Jones’s 659 points are the fourth most in a sea­son at Mary­land. She needs 28 to eclipse Vicky Bul­lett’s pro­gram record set in 1988-89.

Jones also is within reach of Mary­land’s sin­gle-sea­son re­bound­ing record, need­ing 28 to pass Thomas, who had 381 in 2012-13.

“There’s no rea­son to bring up last year’s game. I mean it’s fresh in the minds of the re­turn­ing play­ers,” Frese said. “The fresh­men un­der­stand the past. This is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent team than we were last year. The thing I re­mind them of is that ev­ery round you ad­vance, it gets that much harder.”

Frese had the lux­ury of be­ing able to rest Jones and Walk­erKim­brough as well as the ma­jor­ity of her starters for much of the sec­ond half on Fri­day with the out­come well in hand. Point guard Des­tiny Slocum, the Big Ten fresh­man of the year, was the only starter to log more than 25 min­utes.

The 22nd-ranked Moun­taineers, mean­while, had four starters play at least 31 min­utes dur­ing their 75-62 win over No. 11 seed Elon in the first round.

“I think it’s a big mo­ti­va­tion for our team this year, es­pe­cially both shar­ing sto­ries about how they felt last year,” Slocum said of ral­ly­ing around her se­nior team­mates. “I know none of us wants to feel that way, and we don’t want them go­ing out that way. They’re two great play­ers, and they’re amaz­ing peo­ple, and I think the best thing we can do is send them out in the best way pos­si­ble.”

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