No. 13 Maryland women’s basketball earned its seventh straight victory in impressive fashion on Monday, defeating the No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes, 81-69.
With Indiana’s upset loss to Nebraska earlier in the night, the winner of Monday’s tilt would be only one game back in the loss column of first place in the Big Ten with plenty of basketball left to play. Both teams were without key players, as Maryland was missing junior guard Ashley Owusu (ankle) for the third straight game and Iowa was without junior guard/forward McKenna Warnock.
In front of her family and friends, head coach Brenda Frese earned an emotional victory in her home state of Iowa.
“Just a really, really special win,” Frese said. “Obviously anytime you get to get back home and have your family and friends in the stands, but what’s even more special is just how the team played tonight.”
Maryland held the lead for nearly 33 minutes against Iowa, making a tough road game look easy. Let’s dive into some of the takeaways.
Maryland put on a clinic in the first half and set the tone for a rough night for Caitlin Clark.
After going down 9-2 more than three minutes into the game, Maryland looked like it could be haunted from a slow start in a hostile environment.
Clearly, that was not the case.
The Terps just took complete control of the half from that point forward, nearly doubling up the Hawkeyes, 46-24. Maryland held a 48-33 lead at the halftime break thanks to one of its best halves of the season.
Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese dominated down low, scoring 18 points and grabbing five boards in the first 20 minutes. Junior guard Diamond Miller was not far behind either, scoring 10 first-half points.
As a team, Maryland shot 51% from the field and 5-of-9 from distance in the first half. Even sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova — who has been forced into the rotation in Owusu’s absence — joined the action with a triple.
What was more impressive from Maryland, though, was its defensive effort. Frese threw different looks at sophomore guard Caitlin Clark, the nation’s leading scorer and assist-getter, throughout the first half. Whether it was freshman guard Shyanne Sellers, Miller or any variation of a double-team, Clark was mainly silenced in the first half.
Sellers deserves an immense amount of credit for taking on by far the biggest task of her college career — the defensive assignment of Clark — and making the most of it.
Clark scored eight points in the first two quarters but was 3-of-13 from the field with six turnovers. She did not make her first field-goal attempt until the 5:22 mark of the second quarter.
“Making, obviously a great player like Clark, have to work,” Frese said. “I mean those 10 turnovers, making her have to work on the offensive end and putting a lot of pressure on her.”
Keeping Clark from doing damage in the second half would be a much more vigorous task, but quieting her early was key to victory.
Maryland won the rebounding battle by a significant margin.
Throughout Maryland’s seven-game win streak, rebounding has been both an emphasis and improvement. The Terps made sure that trend continued against Iowa.
Not only did Maryland go into Iowa and outrebound the Hawkeyes, but it destroyed them on the boards.
The final advantage in total rebounds read Maryland 47, Iowa 31.
“Our defense and our rebounding, holding them to 69 points, that’s huge...the number one scoring team in the country,” Frese said. “So our defense is really improved and then 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 on the glass.”
It was the fifth straight game Maryland grabbed more rebounds than its opponents, and it is no surprise that all of them resulted in victories.
The Terps also corralled 19 offensive rebounds and were able to control the tempo by controlling the glass.
The matchup pitted two high-profile offenses that want to get out in transition and run the ball. Because of its massive rebounding edge, Maryland never let that become much of an issue for it on the defensive end.
Angel Reese, Diamond Miller and Chloe Bibby ensured a Maryland statement in its biggest spot of the season.
Monday night marked the beginning of a four-game gauntlet to end Maryland’s regular-season schedule. The Terps would start at Iowa and finish with rematches against Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana. A loss in part one would have likely put all Big Ten title hopes to bed.
Reese, Miller and Bibby had other thoughts. Even though all the pregame chatter was about Clark, the frontrunner for National Player of the Year, it was Maryland’s stars who took control of the narrative.
Miller, along with the help of her teammates, played a big part in defending Clark, limiting her to 19 points (more than eight below her previous season-average) on 28% shooting. But Miller also controlled the game on the offensive end. With Owusu out, Miller was the dynamic presence that the Terps needed from the perimeter. She scored 20 points and showed everything that makes her a promising pro prospect.
Reese, who has solidified herself as one of the nation's best bigs, recorded another All-American-esque performance. The Baltimore native recorded her 14th double-double of the season with 25 points and 13 rebounds. The flashes in the post were nothing new from Reese, but it was a defensive play from her at the end of the game that epitomizes the star power she brings to this Maryland team.
With just over a minute remaining, Reese came up to defend Clark way out on the perimeter. Her length disrupted her, and she knocked the ball off Clark’s leg to force her 10th turnover, icing the game. Reese celebrated knowing that she secured her team the win, and her leadership has become palpable as just a sophomore.
“I love plays like that,” Reese said. “I mean, Caitlin Clark is a great player. I mean, we played against each other AAU and now being able to play each other in college. So that was a great moment and play for me.”
Finally, for Bibby, she continues this stretch of playing her best basketball of the season. Her success on the offensive end has directly correlated to Maryland’s; the Terps are now 15-2 in games where she scores at least 10 points.
Bibby may not have been Maryland’s first, or even second, best player on the floor against Iowa, but she was arguably its most clutch. Iowa had cut the lead to eight points with fewer than five minutes to play, but Bibby went on a personal 5-0 run to seal the deal. A three-pointer followed by a steal and a layup ballooned Maryland’s lead back to 13, re-establishing its control of the game.
The Terps received much-needed contributions from three of its best players in a road domination, and they are now officially a threat to win the Big Ten title. Could Maryland be peaking at the right time?
“These guys have weathered a lot of adversity,” Frese said. “I mean, who knows, there could still be more out there for us... but even within a game, when we have adversity, I think that’s where we don’t flinch. We’re prepared. I mean this non-conference that we went through in November and December and then obviously conference play, what that prepares you for, has really put us in this position with our team.”