COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Freshman Taylor Mikesell scored 20 points, Stephanie Jones had 14 points and nine rebounds, and No. 8 Maryland beat Illinois 71-62 on Saturday to lock up the Big Ten regular season title.
Having already clinched at least a share of the conference crown, the Terrapins (26-3, 15-3) eliminated Iowa to secure the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Maryland has either won or shared the regular season title in four of its five years in the conference.
Shakira Austin scored 13 points and Blair Watson added 12 for the Terrapins, who have won 11 of 12.
Alex Wittinger had 20 points and 11 rebounds for last-place Illinois (10-19, 2-16).
Seeking to go 10-0 against Illinois, the Terrapins never trailed after the game’s opening 3 ½ minutes. Maryland led 22-14 after the first quarter and boosted the margin to 10 before Courtney Joens scored eight points in a seven-minute span to make it 37-33 at halftime.
Using three field goals by Wittinger, Illinois pulled even at 39 early in the second half. Mikesell followed with a 3-pointer to launch a 12-3 spree that concluded with Watson drilling a shot from deep in the left corner and Austin converting a three-point play.
Minutes later, Watson hit a 3-pointer to give Maryland a 54-44 lead entering the fourth quarter.
After the Fighting Illini closed to 58-52, Watson hit a 3 and Austin popped a jumper in the lane to secure the win.
Illinois: The Fighting Illini put up a good fight, which could be cause for optimism in their effort to squeeze out a win or two in the Big Ten Tournament.
Maryland: It wasn’t the Terrapins’ most dominant performance, but still good enough to seal a solid run to close out the regular season — the lone flaw an 86-73 defeat at Iowa on Feb. 17.
Brianna Fraser, the lone senior on the Maryland roster, was honored before the team’s final home game.
Then she took a seat, wearing a boot over the sprained left ankle she sustained Feb. 21 against Minnesota. It’s uncertain if the 6-foot-3 reserve forward will be back for the Big Ten Tournament. She’s averaging 7.8 points and 17½ minutes per game.
Illinois: Wittinger blocked one shot and stands one short of tying the school career record of 271, held by Karisma Penn (2009-13).
Maryland: The Terps need two more wins to become the 11th Division I women’s program to reach 1,000. Also, Mikesell nailed four 3-pointers and needs five to match the school single-season record of 91 set by Kristi Toliver in 2008-09.
In addition, Austin blocked four shots and needs four more to eclipse the single-season Maryland record of 80, held by Kris Kirchner (1978-79).
Illinois: Opens play Wednesday in Big Ten Tournament.
Maryland: Begins play Friday in Big Ten Tournament.