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The No. 13 Maryland Terrapins traveled to Iowa City for a Valentine’s Day Big Ten showdown with the No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes. The Terps survived a late flurry by Divison I leading scorer Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes. Head coach Brenda Frese’s team was led by star guard/forward Angel Reese, who registered her 15th double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds in the team’s 81-69 win.
Maryland’s offense has been electric in its seven-game winning streak, averaging 77 points since their last loss on Jan. 20 vs. Ohio State. Maryland’s offense is dynamic and versatile, with the ability to punish teams inside and shoot the lights out in any arena it steps into. The Terps are more efficient offensively when they are patient and decisive in transition.
Midway through the first quarter, Maryland trailed Iowa 11-6. Maryland freshman guard Shyanne Sellers attempts to push the ball in transition but opts to slow the tempo to run Frese’s offense.
Sellers passed the ball to the junior guard Diamond Miller, who was standing on the left wing. Miller caught the ball in a triple threat position, then received a ball screen from senior graduate forward Chloe Bibby. Miller used a violent jab step to her right and dribbled hard to her left.
Bibby made two brilliant observations: the left wing was open for a wide-open three-pointer and Iowa forward Addison O’Grady was clogging the paint. The Australian native sprinted to the three-point line to give Miller an outlet to pass the ball. Bibby set her feet and drained a three-pointer to trim the Iowa lead to 11-9.
With under four minutes in the first quarter, Maryland trailed 13-12 and appeared to survive Iowa’s early surge. After an impressive block by Miller, Sellers snagged the ball and was off to the races in transition.
The Ohio native found graduate senior captain Katie Benzan, who used a quick hesitation dribble to get her defender off her feet. Benzan found Reese, who established a strong position in the post. Reese caught the ball with two hands and kept the ball tight into her chest, to gauge whether Iowa guard Gabbie Marshall was going to double the post or allow her to go to work in the post. Once Reese noticed that Marshall was not doubling, she backed down her defender with two dribbles, finishing at the rim with her left hand. The basket scored by Reese gave the Terps the 14-13 lead.
You cannot underestimate the importance of having an experienced floor general like Benzan, who is able to calmly get her fellow Terps in and out of offensive sets.
With just over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, Maryland was stringing together quality possessions of scoring and defending at a high level. Benzan patiently dribbled the ball up the floor and called one of Frese’s offensive sets.
Benzan dribbled to her left to allow the play to develop. The play saw Reese and junior forward Mimi Collins set two strong stagger screens for the sharpshooting Bibby to come off of. Bibby ran extremely hard and wisely used Reese’s right shoulder to gain separation from Iowa’s Clark. The little inch of separation gave Bibby enough time to catch the ball and dribble the ball once, before rising up and draining a jump shot. Maryland would extend its lead to seven, 32-25.
Maryland would begin to find its rhythm on the offensive end in the second quarter by making timely passes and remaining aggressive.
With a little more than four minutes remaining in the first half, Reese exhibited great patience and her ability to find open teammates for scoring opportunities. Reese caught the ball on the right block and immediately looked for an open teammate slashing to the rim. The 6-foot-3 sophomore made two hard dribbles in the paint, which drew a demanding double team. Reese delivered a pass into the shooting pocket of sophomore guard Taisiya Kozlova, who drained a shot from behind the arc.
Kozlova has been playing extended minutes since junior guard Ashley Owusu suffered an ankle injury in the Feb. 3 67-62 victory over Michigan State.
As the games increase in importance, finishing quarters strong are crucial for sustaining momentum and propelling your team forward for the remainder of the game.
The Terps then showed how dynamic they are in transition, with the ability to use their speed and athleticism to punish defenders in the open court. With two minutes and 13 seconds in the second quarter, Benzan made a dazzling spin and sprinted with the ball in transition. Benzan used a nice hesitation dribble to get inside the paint and find Miller trailing on her left-hand side for the layup. Maryland would stretch its lead to 45-29.
Maryland miscues allowed Iowa to get back in the game.
With under two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Iowa began to close the distance on Maryland’s 61-47 advantage.
Benzan was dribbling the ball on the left wing and setting the offense for the Terps. Bibby was supposed to set a hard down screen on Iowa guard Tomi Taiwo, to free up Miller to have space on the elbow. Bibby jolted to the block without setting the screen, therefore allowing Taiwo to stick to Miller, as they ran jointly to the elbow. Miller stopped at the elbow, and attempted to become an outlet pass for Benzan to move the ball.
With Taiwo active in the passing lane, she stole the ball, as Benzan tried to pass it to Miller. Taiwo raced down the court and scored an easy layup to trim Maryland’s lead to 61-49 and force a Frese timeout.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Iowa was inbounding the ball on their end of the floor. One of the key rules to defending an out of bounds play is to protect the rim and not allow an easy layup.
Iowa’s star guard Clark was looking to find an open teammate on her team’s baseline and almost used the entire five seconds allotted to put the ball in play. Iowa guard Gabbie Marshall faked out Sellers and sprinted to an open passing lane for Clark. Marshall received the pass from Clark in the heart of the paint and finished with her right hand off the glass for the layup. Iowa would trim the Maryland lead to 66-61.
With under five minutes in the fourth quarter, Iowa was off to the races in transition, hoping to trim the Maryland lead to single digits. Clark dribbled the ball hard in transition and created great penetration. As the Maryland defense focused on not allowing easy drives to the basket, Clark found Tomi Taiwo for an open three pointer, which she missed.
Maryland guard Taisiya Kozlova attempted to block out Iowa forward Addison O’Grady and grab the defensive rebound. Kozlova did not box out strong, as O’Grady was able to use a swim move to snag the offensive rebound and score the layup to trim Maryland's lead to 71-63.
But Maryland’s patience and execution slammed the door shut on an Iowa comeback.
The Terps were teetering in the fourth quarter to close Iowa out in a ranked Big Ten showdown.
Bibby snagged one of her eight rebounds on the night and launched an outlet pass to Maryland junior guard Diamond Miller. The junior tracked down the ball and drew a trap on the wing. Benzan got into the vision of Miller by setting up for a three pointer. Miller stepped through the trap and put the ball In Benzan’s shooting pocket. Benzan canned the three pointer to give the Terps the 71-61 lead.
With three minutes and 34 seconds remaining in the game, Maryland looked to execute offensively to extend their lead, to secure the victory. The Terps ran a similar play earlier in the game off a double stagger screen for Bibby set by Reese and Collins. This time, it was Reese setting a single screen on Iowa’s Taiwo, as the Hawkeyes were in a 2-3 zone. Reese’s screen resulted in a wide-open three pointer for Bibby, which she scored. Maryland was up 74-63.
In the fourth quarter, sometimes you need players with the mentality of taking over the game and leaving no room for doubt. Maryland’s Reese has that. With under three minutes remaining in the final quarter, Reese grabbed an offensive rebound off of Diamond Miller miss. The St. Frances Academy product went straight up but missed the shot. Instead of trotting down the court for defense, the nation’s leader in offensive rebounds secured another rebound and drew a foul on another putback attempt. The tenacity and energy of Reese permeated throughout her team the entire night, most importantly in the final quarter.
The Terps are loaded with talent, speed, and athleticism. Over the course of their winning streak, Maryland has been playing exceptional basketball on both ends. Frese’s team will look to continue their momentum, as they close out the regular season with three pivotal games.