MADISON, Wis. (AP) Maryland is ahead of schedule in the Big Ten.
The preseason favorites to win the league locked up a share of the regular-season title and the top seed in the conference tournament by beating Wisconsin 81-70 on Thursday night for the Terrapins' 18th straight win.
That's one big goal checked off the to-do list with three games still left in the inaugural year of Big Ten play for No. 5 Maryland (24-2, 15-0).
''Really proud of this group. It's not an easy task when you're talking about, as you can see, going on the road and playing in so many different venues, especially first in the new conference,'' coach Brenda Frese said, ''and then being consistent to be able to get wins even when you have an off night.''
If this was an off night, Maryland will be a scary team to face in the postseason.
Brionna Jones had 20 points and 15 rebounds, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 17 points, while Lexie Brown added 15 points and seven assists for the Terrapins.
Wisconsin (8-17, 4-11) trailed by as much as 17 in the first half before hitting three 3s in the opening 5 minutes of the second half to help pull to 49-46. Jacki Gulczynski had two 3s during the 16-6 run after halftime.
Maryland held off Wisconsin from there, getting a lift from Jones' inside play.
''Their sagging defense kind of gave us a little trouble. Once we figured it out, we took off and our offensive game picked up and we just started getting stops,'' Walker-Kimbrough said.
Jones, a 6-foot-3 center, went 3 of 5 from the field the rest of the way before missing the last couple minutes with an apparent lower left leg injury. She looked fine afterward, and a team spokeswoman said that Jones was OK.
The Terps benefited from a fast start, forcing five turnovers in the first 10 minutes to build a 13-point lead. Maryland pounced on virtually every mistake during that stretch, helping to build a 28-13 edge in points off turnovers for the night.
''We see what a No. 5 team in the country looks like. They are who we thought they were,'' Wisconsin coach Bobbie Kelsey said.
Maryland: Terps won the only other meeting between the two schools, 91-82 in 1982 in College Park. ... Maryland shot 54 percent in the first half before finish the game at 49 percent. ... The Terps enjoy a three-game lead in their inaugural year in the conference with three games left in the regular season.
Wisconsin: Badgers fell to 0-6 against Top 25 teams. ... Cassie Rochel finished with 11 rebounds, while Gulczynski had eight points.
The Terps seemed to feed off the energy from Frese, who watched with delight after her team forced a turnover after trapping Tessa Cichy in the corner in front of the Maryland bench on Wisconsin's first possession.
Maryland forced another backcourt turnover a few minutes later and the Terps built a methodical 21-8 lead.
Cichy finished with 17 points, while Dakota Whyte and Nicole Bauman each had 16 points for Wisconsin, which took better care with the ball in the second half.
''We're kind of a battle-back team. That's just kind of what we do,'' Cichy said. ''I mean we shouldn't have to. We should probably start out better than we do.''
Maryland emerged with its second road win of the week after beating Michigan State 75-69 on Monday. The Terps had their issues in both contests, though they did enough to emerge with victories.
''I think it bodes well when you're not playing some of your best basketball, or as consistent as we have been,'' Frese said. ''We're finding a way to be able to finish it.''
Frese said she would like to go back to relying on her depth more to wear down opponents.
Maryland: Hosts Penn State on Monday.
Wisconsin: Hosts Northwestern on Sunday.