We don’t talk about The Godfather Part III, but Maryland-Iowa Part III might be talked about for years to come.
The victor will dictate the lines and scenes that have most definitely been drafted by each team as to how each act will transpire.
Saturday, March 4, approximately 5 p.m. ET, Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: Big Ten Network
Streaming: FOX Sports
How did they get here?
No. 3-seed Maryland Terrapins (25-5, 15-3 Big Ten)
The Terps have been one of the nation’s hottest teams and are on the verge of obtaining a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which comes after Utah was upset in the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday.
Head coach Brenda Frese and company have said that they want to be clicking at the right time, and that’s exactly what the Terps have done. Maryland recently swept Ohio State and blew out Iowa.
“It’s gonna be a heck of a battle for both of us,” Frese said Friday. “It’s gonna feel like a road game … we know how close it is for their fans and they travel extremely well and obviously with Caitlin Clark, why wouldn’t you come out and see her play … both teams will be ready to play from the tip.”
Recently, it’s been Maryland’s bench that has stepped up in a massive way. Graduate guard Brinae Alexander and senior forward Lavender Briggs have grown leaps and bounds from where both of them were to begin the year.
It was no secret that Maryland put together one of the toughest schedules in the nation but it navigated the gauntlet better than anyone could have expected with wins over UConn, Ohio State, Baylor, Notre Dame, Purdue and more.
The program has been guided by elements of seriousness on defense and a dash of fun – something that graduate student guard Abby Meyers prioritizes every day.
No. 2-seed Iowa Hawkeyes (24-6, 15-3 Big Ten)
The Hawkeyes have taken the Big Ten and nation by storm with heroics from Clark and company. Monika Czinano has been Clark’s go-to player when she needs to kick it out for a bucket when she’s trapped.
Clark has made the impossible logo shots look effortless, and there’s no doubting a bright WNBA future is ahead of her if she wants to pursue that route.
Iowa’s versatility at a variety of positions has made it a formidable opponent throughout the season with the abilities of Gabbie Marshall and McKenna Warnock, who had nine rebounds when Iowa last played Maryland.
After the loss to Maryland, Iowa ended its regular season with a 86-85 win over Indiana courtesy of a viral Clark 3-pointer at the buzzer. Then the Hawkeyes handily defeated Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament after receiving a double-bye.
What happened last time
Maryland did something that not many teams have been able to do the last three years: lock down Clark.
It also limited Czinano to six points. Combined, Clark and Czinano shot 7-for-18 from the field in what was an impressive defensive showing from the Terps and all around milestone win.
The Hawkeyes still remain winless in College Park since Maryland joined the Big Ten.
Clark wasn’t able to launch her traditional half court shots and drain them as she has done many times this season. Maryland forced her into six turnovers.
Offensively, fans were treated to a parade of 3-pointers from Alexander and Briggs. Alexander finished with a career-high 24 points and had six 3-pointers.
“What helps is seeing the ball go in the basket so those first couple drives and jumper gets me feeling good,” Alexander said after the win over Iowa.
Maryland’s win split the season series after the Hawkeyes defeated the Terps, 96-82, in Iowa City on Feb. 2.
Three things to watch
1. The villain. Clark still managed to score 18 and lead her team in what was the worst loss of her college career the last time Maryland played Iowa. It was a rarity that the Terps locked her down as well as they did. Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said it was one of the best defensive jobs on Clark she’s seen. Despite how good Maryland’s defense has been — and lately it’s been quite strong — it would be foolish to believe that it can lock down Clark that well for a second time.
“They denied the heck out of her, right, they face guarded her the whole time,” Bluder said after Iowa’s loss to Maryland. “They did a really good job with that. That was really the best we’ve seen all year.”
Look for Clark to heave her usual long-range 3-pointers and likely hit a handful of them. She’s going to have a revengeful eye
2. Assist-to-turnover ratio. This has been Frese’s favorite phrase of the season and it’s one of the big metrics she uses to identify if her team is trending in the right direction.
“Tonight they made the game look really easy,” Frese said Friday. “A two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio in a quarterfinal game, that bodes really well.”
If players such as graduate student guard Elisa Pinzan, senior guard Diamond Miller and senior forward Faith Masonius can facilitate passing and get assists, then the team should be in good shape. Dumping the ball inside to sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers worked well yesterday too.
3. Foul trouble. Traditionally fouling hasn’t been the biggest issue Maryland has had to deal with. However, in big games, there have been instances when players like Miller and Sellers get tied up early. Miller didn’t play much of the second quarter in the last meeting against Iowa because she picked up two fouls. Miller ended the game with three fouls then, and three other players finished with two.
Friday, the Terps forced Genesis Bryant to pick up four fouls. They’ll be in good shape if they can lure Czinano or Clark into picking up a few and taking them out of the game early on.
The road ahead
A spot in the championship game awaits the winner of this game and the winner of No. 1-seed Indiana and No. 4-seed Ohio State.