Jones center of attention for 3rd-ranked Maryland women
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — With Brionna Jones leading the way, No. 3 Maryland is terrorizing the Big Ten — again.
Jones, a 6-foot-3 senior, looms dauntingly in the center of an offense that averages 90 points per game. Effectively clogging the lane under both baskets, Jones has rattled off 10 straight double-doubles for the only unbeaten team in conference play.
“That Brionna Jones is a monster,” longtime Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. “She has what I would consider suction cups for hands, she knows where she is on the boards and she’s got great angles to the basket.”
Stringer made the comments after Maryland beat the Scarlet Knights 80-71 on Sunday. Jones had 11 points and 13 rebounds despite being the main focus of every Rutgers defender.
“That kind of defense was well warranted because of the great player that she is,” Stringer said.
Great? Quite possibly.
Intense? Without a doubt.
“That kid is just the strongest, meanest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Penn State assistant coach Tamika Jenner said after Jones tied a Maryland record with 42 points against the Lady Lions.
The Terrapins (19-1, 7-0) are seeking their third Big Ten title in three years since joining the conference. Jones and senior guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough rank 1-2 in scoring on a squad that includes two freshman starters and plenty of depth.
Maryland’s lone defeat this season came against top-ranked Connecticut, an 87-81 thriller on Dec. 29 in which Jones had 19 points and 13 rebounds. The Terrapins have since won seven straight.
In a sport dominated by guards, Jones provides Maryland hope of a rematch with UConn deep in the NCAA Tournament.
“When you can play inside and out and have the high-percentage shots she’s able to take, it definitely makes you a dangerous team,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. “There’s just not that many true low post, back-to-the-basket dominant type of players out there.”
Jones tore her right ACL in January of her senior year at Aberdeen (Md.) High School. After completing an intense rehabilitation program at Maryland, she returned to the court for the start of her freshman year and was a starter by January.
“When she first came in here, to lose 30 to 40 pounds in that short a time, it was a lot of hard work behind the scenes,” Frese said.
More recently, a summer’s worth of rigorous workouts under first-year conditioning coach Lanie Deppe prepared Jones for what she hopes will be a senior season to remember.
“I pushed myself through that, trying to be better than I was previously, and it’s correlated onto the court,” Jones said. “Plus, with my experience, the game has slowed down for me. I know how to get free under the basket and where to be for the rebound.”
She leads the team with 19.4 points and 10.6 boards. Although the results speak for themselves, several Big Ten coaches have been quick to weigh in on Jones’ abilities.
“She takes charges, sacrifices her body. And she’s changed her body over the past four years,” Jenner said. “I love watching her play.”
After Jones throttled Michigan with 25 points on 12-for-16 shooting in an 83-70 win earlier this month, Wolverines coach Kim Barnes Arico said: “Bri is a hard matchup for anyone. ... She’s tough to double. She just finishes.”
The perfect finish for Jones and the Terps this season would be celebrating the school’s second national championship.
“Bri Jones puts the team on her back, night in and night out,” Frese said. “I think she knows every time she steps out on the floor she’s the best post player out there. On the offensive end, we go through her. And when a shot goes up, she knows how to get in position for the rebound. It’s just really coming together for her.”