With the ball in guard Caitlin Clark’s hands, forward/guard Angel Reese, who led the way with a game-high 25 points and 13 rebounds, reached in, avoided the foul and won possession for her team in what wound up being her biggest play of the night late in the fourth quarter. Reese then sprinted down the court with her finger pointed to the other end, signifying the ebb and flow of the game’s momentum finally turned in Maryland women’s basketball’s favor.
“I love plays like that,” Reese said of her late-game heroics. “Caitlin Clark is a great player. It was a great momentum play for me, and I know I did whatever I needed to do for my team. I know I helped my team [to] get that steal.”
There was no love lost between No. 13 Maryland (19-6, 11-3 Big Ten) and No. 22 Iowa (16-7, 10-4) on Monday evening in Iowa City, Iowa. After suffering several blowout conference losses earlier in the season, the visitors continued their shut-you-down defensive style — this time against the third-highest scoring team in the country — that led to their seventh consecutive win. It was heartbreak for the Hawkeyes on Valentine’s Day as the Terrapins marched into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and left with an 81-69 victory.
The question heading into Monday’s date was one few teams have been able to answer all season long: How do you slow down the nation’s leading scorer who has scored an average of 44.5 points on 53% shooting from the field in her most recent outings against ranked opponents?
Maryland managed to keep Clark quiet for the first half, and although she had nine points in the third, the Terps again locked in and held the nation's leading scorer to two points in the final frame.
“Making a great player like Clark work, I mean those 10 turnovers, making her have to work on the offensive end and putting a lot of heat and pressure on her was huge,” head coach Brenda Frese said after the game. “[Clark’s] so good, but the fact that we turned her into 10 turnovers tonight didn’t surprise me.”
After committing just six turnovers in the first half, Maryland lost the ball five times in the fourth quarter alone. Not only was Maryland careless with the ball, it made just 31% of its shots from the field. However, the traveling outfit survived a furious comeback attempt from Iowa to pick up its 11th win in Big Ten play and seventh straight game overall.
On one of the sweetest days of the year, Maryland finally solved the 1,000 piece puzzle that is Clark. The solution: You throw a combination of Shyanne Sellers, Diamond Miller and Taisiya Kozlova at her.
“It’s really great, coming together, within the games,” graduate forward Chloe Bibby said of the team’s defensive performance. “It gives us that energy when Angel’s all over the ball. It brings everyone up, and we’re just were so connected. We obviously have that offensive chemistry, so to get it on the defense, man, it’s just so much fun to play.”
Clark, the most explosive offensive player in college basketball capable of hitting half-court shots with ease, came into Monday’s affair averaging 27.6 points and 8.2 assists, which is also top in the nation.
From the start, the Terrapins made life difficult for Iowa’s stupendous sophomore; Sellers took an early charge and was jarring with Clark through several intense defensive matchups.
“I thought everybody knew where she was at. She constantly felt it,” Frese said of her team’s awareness when guarding Clark. “The offensive charge to start the game set the tone; this is Big Ten physicality.
And when Sellers picked up two early fouls, Miller, who doesn’t get enough credit for her work on the defensive side of the ball, stepped in to lock things down. The third member of Maryland’s formidable trio was Kozlova, who continued her strong run of games; the sophomore from Russia gave the Terps productive defensive minutes against Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Things looked conformable for the away side through the first half. Maryland took a 48-33 lead into the half, but a sloppy third quarter let the Hawkeyes back into the game. In two minutes, the Terps gave the ball away four times, and Iowa used the shift in momentum to tear on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to nine. And while Miller, who had 20 points on the night, hit a three with eight seconds to go in the third frame, Clark marched back down the court and banked in a deep shot to keep her team within striking distance.
A sluggish first quarter ultimately proved the difference for the Hawkeyes; they went over three minutes in the opening period without a basket. Clark had just two points — both from the line — and missed each of her first five shots from the field. Her 19 points were her second-fewest of the season. Her teammate Monika Czinano put up 16 points before fouling out with 2:28 left to play.
Maryland shook off a slow start — they made just one of their first seven attempts — to end the first quarter shooting 64% from the field, which led to a five-point lead into the second quarter. The Terps finished the night shooting 46% from the field and 45% from deep. Graduate guard Chloe Bibby also chipped in on the offensive side of the ball with 16 points and eight boards.
After the game, Frese, who is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, went into the stands for an embrace with her mother, Donna. Frese’s father, Bill, recently passed away.
Next up for Maryland is No. 18 Ohio State at home on Thursday before matchups against No. 9 Michigan (away) and No. 5 Indiana (home). With the Wolverines losing their last two games and the Hoosiers falling to Nebraska Monday evening, the door leading to the Big Ten title has gone from ajar to wide open.
Three things to know
1. It’s all Angel. When asked recently about how the team would cope with the loss of junior guard Ashely Owusu, sophomore big guard Reese commented something along the lines of, “we all need to step up.” On Monday night, though, the Baltimore native stole the show in Iowa City. Reese reached double-digit scoring for the 21st time this season and finished the night with a 25-point, 13-rebound, two-block slash line.
2. Winning the rebounding battle. It’s no secret that Iowa struggles to rebound the ball; the Hawkeyes are last in the Big Ten with just 9.2 offensive rebounds a game. For a fifth straight match, Maryland outrebounded its opponents. The Terps turned 19 offensive rebounds into nine second-chance points and outpaced their opponents by 16 on the glass.
“Our defense and our rebounding, holding them to 69 points, that’s huge,” Frese said. “Our defense has really improved and then the rebounding part, to be plus 16, that was an area of emphasis going into this game that we really wanted to be able to really outrebound them and get them on the glass.”
3. Defending Caitlin Clark. Not only does Clark lead the country in points and assists, but she also has the most triple-doubles (five). The Iowa native looked to be on her way to breaking the slump, putting up nine points in the third quarter, but she was held to two points in the fourth as her team fell at home. After tearing through the Big Ten in recent weeks, Clark made only seven of her 25 looks from the field and was just 23% from three.