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No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball at No. 6 Iowa preview

The winner of Thursday’s showdown will take sole possession of second place in the conference.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 30 Womens Penn State at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese was happy to be able to give some of her starters some much-needed rest as the Terps pulled away in Monday’s 87-66 victory against Penn State.

“I love the fact that we were able to kind of even out some of the minutes within our team,” Frese said.

The Terps took care of business at home, even though Thursday’s contest at No. 6 Iowa had to be looming large.

“[Diamond Miller] was the most vocal [in practice] about not taking Penn State for granted,” Frese added.

Miller and the Terps move on to debatably their most important game of the season thus far, with two of the top teams in the nation going head-to-head.

Thursday’s affair is set to start at 8:30 p.m and will air on ESPN.

Iowa Hawkeyes (17-4, 9-1 Big Ten)

Head coach Lisa Bluder has the reigning Big Ten champions rolling once again, right in the thick of the race for another conference title. Catapulted by the nation’s second-best scoring offense, Iowa has roamed in and around the top 10 all season.

Iowa’s schedule has been highlighted by impressive ranked victories along with some close defeats. Wins over Iowa State, Michigan and Ohio State with losses to Kansas State and Illinois have the Hawkeyes sitting comfortably at No. 6 in the latest AP poll.

Iowa is coming off a narrow four-point victory on the road against Nebraska, a team that has tested top opponents, including Maryland, this season.

Players to know

Caitlin Clark, junior guard, 6-foot, No. 22 — Clark might be the most dynamic player in college sports right now. Averaging close to a 30-point triple-double, the junior has established herself as the best player in the Big Ten. One of the frontrunners for the Wooden Award, she ranks second in the nation in both points and assists per game. She’s a walking highlight reel, changing the women’s game with every 30-foot stepback she drains.

Monika Czinano, graduate forward/center, 6-foot-3, No. 25 — Czinano gives the Hawkeyes a deadly one-two punch with Clark. A 2,000-point scorer, the fifth-year has an All-American honorable mention and two All-Big Ten first team honors to her name. The 6-foot-3 forward’s most impressive attribute is her efficiency, with her 66.38% clip from the field ranking third in the country. She’s averaging 18.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season.

McKenna Warnock, senior guard, 6-foot-1, No. 14 — Warnock is a solid, well-rounded guard. An above-average scorer, rebounder and defender, she’ll provide a tough matchup for either Shyanne Sellers or Abby Meyers. She’s currently nursing a rib injury, but it appears she’ll be ready to suit up Thursday, with Bluder calling her “day-to-day” after the team’s victory against Ohio State on Jan. 23.


Three-point shooting. Iowa attempts a lot of threes, starting with Clark who takes almost nine per game, and it scores a lot of its points from beyond the arc. Its 8.6 made 3-pointers per game top the conference, and its overall percentage from distance ranks third. Maryland ranks just ahead in second. The Terps are the worst team in the conference at defending the three, which Iowa will look to exploit.


Close contests. Iowa has only puled away from its opponents on a couple of occasions this season, and has fallen short in some narrow defeats. It’s riding a six-game win streak, but just barely escaped unranked teams in Nebraska and Michigan State during the run. Thursday’s game between two very even opponents likely won’t be decided until the very end.

Three things to watch

1. Two of the nation’s top five players go head-to-head. Diamond Miller and Caitlin Clark are the two best players in the conference, and two of the best guards in the country. With these two going against each other on ESPN in primetime, the country will get a look at two future WNBA talents trying to lead their team to a marquee top-10 victory.

2. Maryland won’t stop Clark, but can it contain her? Clark’s name has been mentioned a lot, but for good reason. No team in the Big Ten has stopped her this season, as she’s scored at least 20 points in every conference game. In 10 conference games, she’s averaging 27.2 points, 9.3 assists and 8.6 rebounds. The good news for Maryland is that its defense has seemingly gotten better every game this season, and it’s forced the third-most turnovers in the conference. Limiting Clark has proven to be one of the most difficult tasks for teams this season, but can Maryland change that narrative?

3. The winner takes second place ... for now. Both Maryland and Iowa have nine conference wins, with Iowa one game ahead in the loss column. Maryland’s won the last four matchups — all by at least double digits — but Thursday’s matchup in Iowa City looks poised to be a much closer contest, with a lot more riding on it. Thursday’s winner will take sole possession of second place in the Big Ten behind No. 4 Indiana.