Two winning streaks clashed Sunday afternoon when the Maryland Terrapins women's basketball team opened the second half of their inaugural Big Ten season hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes in a battle for first place in the conference. A Terps win would mean a perfect 10-0 record and a two-game lead in the conference standings. A Hawkeyes win meant the squads would sit with identical 9-1 records. The Terps recovered from a slow start to take a 93-88 win.
First half - Slow starting Terrapins
Maryland has struggled to start games several times this season and Sunday was no exception. Facing a 2-3 Iowa zone, the Terps turned over the ball on their first two possessions and found themselves trailing 5-0 before the game was a minute and a half old. While Maryland shot poorly and had difficulty finding ways to attack the zone, Iowa continued the hot shooting they used to comeback from 10 down against Nebraska and score 102 points at Northwestern.
The Hawkeyes made six of their first 11 shots including four of five from behind the arc. They used that hot shooting to take a 10 point 19-9 lead. Maryland scored six straight to close the gap to 19-15 but Iowa responded with a 9-4 run to stretch the lead to nine. The Terps continued to attack and had the Hawkeyes in some foul trouble when they committed their seventh foul with 12:14 to play.
While Laurin Mincy was lighting things up with 10 early points for Maryland, a name familiar to Maryland fans, Alexa Kastanek (whose sister Marissa bit the Terps when she played for NC State), came off Iowa's bench to score six for the visitors. Kristen Confroy and Lexie Brown sandwiched a pair of three pointers around a three pointer by Ally Disterhoft and a Confroy steal that led to a Mincy layup and brought the crowd of 5,373 to their feet. The Terps had rallied to within two at 35-33.
The Terps tied the score on a pair of free throws by Brionna Jones, but a traditional three-point play by Bethany Doolittle gave the Hawkeyes the lead again. It seemed the momentum had shifted to Maryland. In addition to solid play from Confroy, who made a steal that led to a layup that gave Maryland their first lead at 39-38 with 2:21 to play, fellow freshman Kiara Leslie injected great energy and scored five points with three rebounds and a blocked shot in 11 minutes of play.
The senior-laden Hawkeyes didn't wilt and quickly recaptured the lead on three free throws and a jump shot on a possession when they grabbed three offensive rebounds. The half closed on a pair of free throws by Tierney Pfirman and the Terps trailing 45-44.
"We started a little slow, obviously," Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said afterward. "I thought to keep our poise and our composure especially to get it within one at the end of the first half was critical."
Second half - The inside game
The teams traded baskets and turnovers to start the second half, but it looked as though the Terps were intent on utilizing their size advantage and getting the ball inside to Jones as they did on three of their first four possessions. The sophomore responded with two baskets and three free throws to put the Terps up by three early in the half. Said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder, "They did a nice job of tossing the ball back off the ball screen. She (Jones) is a really nice player and she's hard to guard." When Jones added one of two free throws on a sequence when she grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to join Brown and Mincy as double digit scorers, Maryland had their largest lead at 52-48. "Credit this team," Frese said. "You give them something and they go execute it and that was a big piece at halftime."
Once again, the Hawkeyes showed their experience and Disterhoft hit a jumper and a pair of free throws to tie the score. Mincy missed a baseline three pointer and Samantha Logic scored on a driving layup that put the Hawkeyes back in front.
Back-to-back baskets by Jones again failed to rattle the visitors who strung together eight straight to take a six-point lead before a three pointer by Brown halted the run. As Jones had asserted herself early in the half, the Hawkeyes began finding Doolittle who scored on three straight Iowa possessions to keep the margin at three, 66-63, as the teams went to their benches for the under 12 minute media timeout.
After a Terps' miss, Doolittle scored her fourth straight basket to run the Hawkeyes' lead to five. A short jumper by Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who had been struggling, a steal by Jones that led to one of Maryland's few fast-break baskets and a three-point play by Brene Moseley on a drive that brought the crowd back to life gave the Terps a 72-70 lead.
Iowa had a chance to retake the lead but Kastanek missed her free throw after her made layup. Brown made her first three of the day and Jones drew a charge on Kastanek that led to one of two from the line by Mincy and Maryland had a six-point lead. When the Terps missed a basket that could have extended the lead to eight, the Hawkeyes took advantage and chopped the lead to three after a sweeping weak side offensive rebound by Doolittle opened the floor for Melissa Dixon's fourth three pointer of the game.
The Hawkeyes kept the pressure on with two Disterhoft free throws out of the under four minute timeout and after a charging foul on Brown, Disterhoft made one of two free throws and Maryland's lead was down to two. Mincy and Dixon traded a pair of free throws followed by one of two from Jones who grabbed her 15th rebound to go along with her 19 points. Brown also missed one of two that would have given Maryland a five-point lead.
Disterhoft made both of her attempts. Trailing 86-84, Iowa called a timeout with 1:03 to play. The Terps ran the shot clock under 10 seconds when Brown drove through the Hawkeyes' defense to put the Terps up by four. With Maryland pressing, Brown picked off a long cross-court pass and was fouled. This time the sophomore made both free throws and the Maryland lead was six.
Maryland focused on defending the three and not fouling, allowing Disterhoft to score on a layup. Trying to force the Hawkeyes to use the clock, the Terps forced Iowa's 13th turnover of the game. Moseley made one of two from the line and again forced the visitors to use a significant chunk of the clock so that only nine seconds remained when Logic scored the game's final points. When the Terrapins succeeded in inbounding the ball after Iowa's final timeout, the Hawkeyes elected not to foul and Maryland dribbled out the 93-88 win.
Brown led all scorers with her season high 26 points, Mincy added 15 and Jones finished with 19 points -
14 17coming in the second half - to go along with 15 rebounds - with 10 of them also coming in the second half for her third straight double double and seventh eighth on the season.
Maryland now sits at 10-0 in conference with a two game lead over second place Iowa. The 19-2 Terps travel to Penn State Thursday night looking to protect their perfect conference record and extend their winning streak to fourteen.