In a game that was already decided, there was still one more box for the Maryland women’s basketball team to check off during Sunday’s blowout win over Quinnipiac: getting forward Stephanie Jones to 1,000 points.
The moment came with 1:08 left in the third quarter on a putback layup, a simple shot that etched Jones into the same echelon as some of the greatest Terps.
But there was no fanfare, no celebration, no announcement over the loudspeakers. It went over like any other play for Jones, an even-keeled presence throughout her four-year career.
“It was just like a relief,” Jones said of hitting the milestone. “I knew it was coming so it was kind of in the back of my head, but I had [my teammates and coaches] behind me, supporting me, so just to have that was great.”
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After 71 consecutive starts prior to Nov. 17, Jones finished with nine points against Quinnipiac in her third game off the bench this season. When forward Shakira Austin replaced Jones in the starting five against the Blue Hens — a move that helped reinvigorate a stagnant Maryland offense — the senior’s play hasn’t been affected.
Consistency and poise are Jones’ two strongest attributes, and coach Brenda Frese and her teammates rely on her to stay steady no matter the circumstances.
“I think it’s exciting to watch Steph get her 1,000th point. [She’s] one of the most consistent players I’ve ever coached [and] brings it every day,” Frese said. “Her work ethic, making our team better and [I] couldn’t ask for more to be able to see Stephanie get that on her home court.”
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Jones averaged 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game since the start of her sophomore season, shooting 59 percent and making few mistakes on either end. Although not dominant in any particular category, Jones can score inside and out, run with guards on fastbreaks and switch without creating too large of a mismatch due to her fundamentally sound defense.
The team honored Jones for eclipsing the 500-rebound mark in last week’s matchup against George Washington. She was met with hugs from a few of her teammates who have played with her the longest.
By reaching both marks, Jones joins her older sister Brionna — who also played for the Terps from 2014 to 2017 before turning pro — as one of Maryland’s greats. While she may not reach the elite statistical level her sister enjoyed in her career, Jones plays a vital role on a team lacking size this year while center Olivia Owens remains sidelined through illness.
With Austin now coming into her own, Jones must help lead a group of reserves that includes two freshmen to pick up the slack and help the Terps get deeper into the NCAA tournament than the second round, which is where their season has ended for the last two years.
Depth will be a determining factor, and Frese thinks Jones embracing her new role is emblematic of the mindset she wants her players to have and how she wants her team to play moving forward.
“Steph’s our anchor inside,” Frese said. “We need her communication and her in the back just being that anchor for us.”