Maryland women’s basketball had never lost to Iowa at home. On Tuesday when the Hawkeyes — with the season Iowa guard Caitlin Clark was having — entered College Park, Maryland, that streak was in jeopardy.
But it still holds after a dominating 96-68 victory by Maryland in front of a crowd of around 9,000 at the XFINITY Center.
Iowa’s head coach Lisa Bluder didn’t mince words when she said the crowd was “one of the smaller ones we’ve went against,” and “didn’t really think it was a factor in our play.”
Iowa did not bring out any players to speak with reporters after the 28-point loss.
Maryland head coach Brenda Frese believes otherwise. But that’s an unofficial takeaway from the evening that saw senior guard Brinae Alexander put on a show.
“I love our crowd and I thought they were tremendous,” Frese said. “They were loud, our student section, you could see them and they were into the game the entire time ... the ultimate X-factor for us.”
The Terps’ best first half all year.
It was surprising when Maryland held Northwestern to two points in a quarter on Feb. 9. It was even more surprising when it held Clark and the No. 6 team in the country to six points through seven minutes of the second quarter.
Alexander nailed multiple 3-pointers that sent the crowd into a frenzy, perpetuating the narrative that this was a matchup garnering a Final Four-esque atmosphere. Maryland went on a 14-0 run during the second quarter, and it was all while star forward Diamond Miller was on the bench with two fouls.
After senior guard Brinae Alexander’s 3-pointer with 5:31 left in the half, Iowa called a timeout and Frese couldn't help but smile. Alexander scored 12 of her 16 first-half points in the second quarter, including four 3-pointers.
Frese told reporters that her team needed a good first half in this game. That was exactly what happened and then some when Maryland took an 18-point lead and held Iowa to eight points in the second quarter. Tuesday was the largest first-half deficit for Iowa all season; its previous high was 15 points to NC State on Dec. 1.
Senior guard Lavender Briggs said she struggled with her confidence throughout the season. Briggs and other bench players had exceptional games. Briggs’ first half ended with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. She even showed an expression, raising her hand after making shots.
“It feels great to finally have a game like this,” Briggs said. “I feel like I’ve been working hard and I’ve had a hard season so it just feels good.”
Clamping down Caitlin Clark and all of Maryland’s bench.
The aura of XFINITY Center changed when the Iowa Hawkeyes star swished shot after shot in warmups. One of the top shows in college basketball got loose on the court. Right from the opening offensive possessions, Clark was heaving up long-range 3-pointers. She was going to do what she does best, which is score, but Maryland did a decent job containing her in the first half.
Fans yelled an audible “Airball!” the moment the ball got into her hands. It evolved into chants of “Overrated!” The roar grew louder when she passed up the final shot of the first quarter.
Alexander did what fans expected Clark to do Tuesday night, and it made them quite happy seeing three after three swish through the basket. Earlier in the game, Alexander was in for Miller, who had two fouls. Early in the third quarter, she was in for graduate guard Abby Meyers and paired with Miller on the court. Alexander finished with 24 points in 29 minutes. She and Briggs combined for 43 points off the bench.
“I was due for a good shooting night,” Alexander said. “But at the same time, I think my defense fuels my offense ... I know if my shots aren't falling that’s one thing I can keep consistent, just my defensive effort and energy being on top of that.”
Maryland handled itself well on the boards.
Meyers repeated she wants to keep the game simple, though her play style is fast-paced and the type to nail a catch-and-shoot 3-ball. Her rebounding, however, was a catalyst for Maryland’s early success and there’s no denying she’s been prioritizing that aspect of her game.
The Terps outrebounded Iowa 27-19 through 20 minutes and had 10 offensive rebounds — three of which belonged to Meyers.
Maryland ended the game with 13 offensive rebounds, which led to as many second-chance points.