No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball and No. 6 Iowa have been neck-and-neck in the AP poll lately and there was palpable momentum leading up to Thursday night’s game between the two Big Ten juggernauts.
Junior guard Caitlin Clark made quick work of Maryland and showed the separation between the two programs. Her dominance and 27.1 points-per-game scoring average this year have taken the nation by storm. Enter the offensive prowess of Terps senior guard Diamond Miller, and there’s cause for fans to be on the edge of their seats and cheer for a competitive game.
Clark made sure those cheers were directed at her in the Hawkeyes’ 96-82 victory over Maryland. She ended the game with 42 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers had a career-high 26 for Maryland. Senior Diamond Miller had 25.
“I knew I had a height advantage so just trying to attack them and be aggressive,” Sellers said of her offensive approach to the game.
Clark has propelled the Hawkeyes to becoming one of the top teams in the country. Iowa even played the Star Wars march song right before the tip. Playing Clark is intimidating to opponents. Her limitless range led to a halftime stat line that resembled a top player's final stat line: 24 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Maryland has not trailed for much time during its five-game winning streak, but Iowa had the Terps down 11 seven minutes into the contest. Maryland had shot 22% from the field at that point and graduate guard Abby Meyers got out to a sloppy 0-for-8 start. Clark dominated Maryland’s defense with her crisp passing and helped her team hold a double-digit lead after the first quarter.
Miller left the court after picking up her second foul which depleted the Terps’ paint presence. Twenty of Iowa’s 29 first-quarter points came in the paint.
Frese took a timeout with 6:57 left in the second quarter. The sequences leading up to that were other-worldly to some, but to Clark, it’s a normal day on the court, as she hit a 3-pointer from the Mediacom Court logo near her team’s bench. The Hawkeyes mercilessly squeezed the life out of Maryland.
“She’s just a lot stronger, she’s a lot more durable ... She’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player,” Frese said, referencing Clark. “A pleasure to watch play unless you’re scouting her and going against her.”
Maryland, simply put, did not look like itself in the first half. It did not look like the team that has prioritized its assist-to-turnover ratio, gritty first-half offense and transition defense. Miller took it upon herself to help her team mount a comeback and cut the deficit to 10 with five minutes left in the quarter, which included a 7-0 Maryland run. Clark ended that momentum by assisting on a basket to Hannah Stuelke which resulted in Miller picking up her fourth foul.
Frese knows there is not a lot of time for the team to feel sorry about itself and she’s expecting the same resilience as the Terps head into their first meeting against No. 10 Ohio State in College Park.
Three things to know
1. A season-high. Maryland had only given up 90 points once prior this season. It was in a loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten opener, where Jaz Shelley put on a 3-point tear at XFINITY Center. Iowa had no problem doing so, having its way on the offensive end and tallying 96 points Thursday, the most the Terps have allowed this season.
2. Iowa’s Robin. Hawkeyes forward Monika Czinano had an incredibly efficient game for Iowa. She finished with 28 points on 14-for-18 shooting. She and Clarke combined for 66 points. While everyone was watching Clark drain 3-pointers from unbelievable ranges, Czinano was bullying her way into the paint.
3. Foul trouble. By the end of the game, six Terps were one foul away from being disqualified, the most players on the verge of being fouled out all season. The only starter to not have more than two fouls was graduate guard Eliza Pinzan, who had one in 17 minutes. Those fouls allowed Clark to shoot 11 free throws, of which she made 10.