COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) After Brionna Jones finally got done eluding and out-jumping every defender Penn State threw at her, the broad-shouldered Maryland center could not escape her own teammates.
Jones was smothered with affectionate hugs by swarm of Terrapins near midcourt after she tied the school record with 42 points in No. 3 Maryland’s 89-83 victory Wednesday night.
”I’ve had great teammates over the course of my four years, and tonight they just found me when I was open,” Jones said. ”It just happened to be my day.”
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The 6-foot-3 senior went 15 for 19 from the field and sank 12 of 14 free throws to match the previous single-game high at Maryland, set by Marissa Coleman against Vanderbilt on March 29, 2009.
”A special night, obviously, for Bri,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. ”We needed every single one of her 42 points tonight to be able to get past Penn State.”
Jones previous career best scoring effort was 30 points against St. Peter’s on Dec. 16. She also grabbed 14 rebounds against the Lady Lions to become the fifth player in school history to reach the 1,000-rebound mark.
Nearly all of Jones’ baskets were layups, many of them put-backs. She tied the record – but missed a chance to break it – by sinking one of two free throws with 23.9 seconds left.
Jones was so impressive, Penn State assistant coach Tamika Jenner could not mask her admiration, even though the performance came at the Lady Lions’ expense.
”I really like Jones. She’s not 6-5 or 6-6, she’s really strong, she knows angles, she can catch everything,” Jenner said. ”That kid is just the strongest, meanest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Down 37-34 late in the first half, Maryland bounced back to remain the lone unbeaten team in Big Ten play. The Terrapins (16-1, 4-0) have won four straight – each by double digits – since falling to top-ranked UConn.
Teniya Page scored 27 for Penn State (11-6, 1-4) and Amari Carter had 22. Lady Lions 6-foot-4 center Ashanti Thomas scored 11 despite spending much of the night contending with Jones.
Page made four 3-pointers and Penn State shot 50 percent in taking a 24-22 lead after the first quarter. It was 31-26 before Jones accounted for all of Maryland’s points in a 6-1 run that tied it.
Minutes later, Jones made two foul shots to spark a 10-0 run that put the Terps up 44-37 just before the half.
Maryland took control early in the third quarter, getting five points from Jones in an 11-0 spurt that made it 57-41.
Although Penn State eventually cut the gap below double figures, the real suspense down the stretch was whether Jones would top Coleman’s school record.
Jones had no idea that she could have eclipsed Coleman’s record by making both those late free throws.
”I was just trying to get the win,” she said.
DOUBLE THE FUN
Jones has notched seven straight double-doubles and 11 for the season.
”Tonight she was the hot hand,” teammate Destiny Slocum said. ”Almost every night she’s the hot hand.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington felt too ill to attend the post-game session with the media, so she had Jenner do the job. Washington is now 0-4 against Maryland.
Penn State: The Lady Lions don’t have the talent or depth to beat the third-ranked team in the country, but they can take some solace in hanging with Maryland for nearly all 40 minutes.
”We just played hard. We got punched, we punched back,” Jenner said. ”We pretty much did a good job on everybody but Jones.”
Maryland: The Terrapins showed again why they’re the class of the Big Ten, and Jones displayed why she’s one of the best centers in college basketball.
Penn State hosts Wisconsin on Monday night. The Badgers entered play Wednesday as the only winless team in Big Ten play.
Maryland seeks improve its road record to 7-0 at Iowa on Saturday.