INDIANAPOLIS — With just over two minutes remaining in the Big Ten tournament championship game on Sunday, Maryland women’s basketball forward Brianna Fraser fouled out after getting too physical with Ohio State down low.
She swiped at the air in disgust, incensed by the call while knowing the Terps could have used her presence in the paint down the stretch while trailing the Buckeyes by 10.
Fraser played a key role in Maryland’s two tournament wins leading up to the title game, establishing herself as a threat in the paint against Indiana and Nebraska. But foul trouble minimized her contributions in the championship.
The No. 2-seed Terps felt her absence in their 79-69 loss to the No. 1-seed Buckeyes.
“Ohio State did a phenomenal job in understanding she was an X-factor for us,” coach Brenda Frese said, “and went at her aggressively.”
[Read more: Maryland women’s basketball falls to Ohio State in Big Ten tournament final, 79-69]
Fraser started just one game this season, but she is often first or second off the bench, along with guard Ieshia Small. Fraser averages 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game.
In Maryland’s three games prior to the tournament, the junior saw the floor less, averaging 14.3 minutes. But she played 23 and 27 minutes against Indiana and Nebraska, respectively, in the tournament before playing just 13 minutes Sunday.
The uptick in minutes likely came because Fraser had a career night against Indiana on Friday.
Relieving forward Stephanie Jones, Fraser managed 10 points and eight rebounds to go along with four blocks. Fraser often met Indiana’s guards when they drove to the basket.
“She was a monster,” Frese said Friday. “When you look at a junior that’s been here, done that, her energy was sensational. She had a huge presence for us. That’s what you’ve got to be able to have.”
Fraser followed that showing with 18 points, five rebounds and two blocks against the Huskers, combining with Small to contribute 31 points off the bench. She said her teammates’ energy and unselfish play allowed her to dominate.
Guard Kristen Confroy commended Fraser, along with Small, for stepping up when the Terps needed her.
“That’s what makes our team so dangerous,” Confroy said, “is that we never know who’s going to step up and have a big night.”
Fraser was first off the bench in the title game, entering just over halfway through the first quarter.
The Brooklyn, New York, native swatted Ohio State forward Alexa Hart’s layup and then scored at the other end fewer than 30 seconds later.
Three minutes into the second quarter with the game tied at 24, Fraser picked up her second foul and went to the bench. The Buckeyes scored nine straight points following her departure, and outscored the Terps, 27-9, in the quarter.
Fraser re-entered with 1:29 remaining in the half and, with 40 seconds left, she picked up her third foul. She didn’t have a large impact in the seven minutes she played from then until she fouled out.
Maryland pulled within two points of the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter, but the ground lost in Ohio State’s huge second quarter doomed Maryland.
“Obviously, we were trying to stop the bleeding, and we put her back in,” Frese said. “Then they isolated her to go get her third foul. Tremendous play call from the other end. Tough night for her, which I thought impacted us significantly in that second quarter.”