MINNEAPOLIS — No. 3-seed Maryland women’s basketball and No. 2-seed Iowa were even at 79 with just over a minute to play. Iowa junior guard Caitlin Clark missed long on a three, but Iowa secured its 11th offensive rebound of the afternoon. Senior guard Gabbie Marshall then drilled a three to give Iowa a lead it would not surrender.
“Their role players stepped up and they made some big shots down the stretch, and we weren’t able to kind of adjust to take them out of their rhythm,” senior guard Abby Meyers said.
Meyers had a look in the dying seconds to tie the game, but her shot hit the front iron. Reality set in for the Terps in the closing seconds as Iowa defeated them, 89-84, in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Maryland will now move its focus to the NCAA Tournament and await its at-large seed.
“I just love battling with these girls,” Miller said. “We want to be in these big time games and unfortunately, it didn’t go this our way this time. But you’ve seen us play and there were times that went our way. So just know we’re gonna be back. We’re gonna get better.”
The first meeting between these schools went to the Hawkeyes, 96-82, in Iowa City on Feb. 2. Game number two went to the Terps, 96-58, in College Park on Feb. 21. On Saturday evening, on the biggest stage yet with tension and emotions at the highest, the Hawkeyes downed Maryland to advance to their eighth Big Ten Championship game.
Like she has shown the country for three years, Clark took matters into her own hands early, and Maryland had no response.
The All-American hit her third three of the opening quarter to give Iowa a 19-9, forcing Maryland head coach Brenda Frese to burn a timeout.
“It wasn’t one of our finer quarters,” Frese said. “I mean you got to credit Caitlin. I thought she was super motivated after that loss that they took at our place. I thought she made a statement and set the tone like all great players do.”
To make matters worse, sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers — Maryland’s second-leading scorer — headed straight to the locker room with the deficit then at 12 points.
What ensued after that timeout would be a common theme for most of the half: a response and a run by Maryland, followed by a counter-attack by Iowa.
The Terps pulled within six, but Iowa continued to find open shooters. Marshall was often that player, nailing three timely triples. She finished the game with seven three-pointers.
Up 26-18 after the first, Sellers returned to the court to begin the second. Senior guard Diamond Miller began to find her way into the game, getting to the line six times, where she scored almost half of her 11 first-half points.
Abby Meyers had a chance to pull the Terps within three, but her contested jumper rang out, allowing Iowa redshirt senior Kate Martin to rattle home an and-one.
As the Hawkeyes extended their lead back to 12 again, Maryland refused to go down easily — a quality seen from the Terps throughout this season.
“I loved our response,” Frese said.
A couple of made shots from Meyers and Brinae Alexander cut the deficit to four, but Clark responded down the stretch with back-to-back makes, part of her 17-point first half.
It looked like Iowa might pull away on at least three occasions during the first 20 minutes, but Iowa entered halftime up just 47-42.
“Give credit to Iowa. They’re a big first half team. And we were able to you know, only be down by five,” Meyers said. “I think I was just really proud of you know, just with our fight and you know, it was excited for us approaching the second half.”
The second half’s beginning continued to epitomize the game’s overall theme of responses. Iowa senior forward McKenna Warnock drained a three, but Meyers responded right back on the other end with one of her own.
But once again the Terps caught an early injury scare, with Miller heading off to the locker room with an injury.
About a minute after Miller left, Clark knocked down her fifth three of the afternoon.
But Meyers’ veteran leadership proved key, as she helped keep the game close, and finished with a team-high 21 points. Miller returned shortly after her departure.
The two high octane offenses continued to go back-and-forth, in what was slowly turning into a thriller between two of the best teams in the nation. Separated by three after the third quarter, the teams played out a memorable final ten minutes with a spot in Big Ten championship game at stake.
Maryland was its own worst enemy in the end, though. Down two with a chance to tie or take the lead, Sellers threw an errant ball out of bounds. Warnock made her pay with a three shortly after. And on the next possession, Miller turned it over. Marshall came back with a three to bring Iowa’s lead to eight.
“I thought the [turnovers] were more fatigue-based. I didn’t think it was a result of their defense,” Frese said.
The second-largest crowd in tournament history, which was composed of almost entirely Iowa fans, erupted, and Frese called her penultimate timeout.
“It felt like a home court for Iowa and rightly so with with proximity...in March emotions are really, really high,” Frese added. “So, you know, it just prepares us obviously, for this last run in the NCAA Tournament.”
The Terps once again had a chance to cut the lead to one possession, with Miller at the line for a one-and-one, but her first shot lipped off the back iron.
Iowa fifth-year forward Monika Czinano made Maryland pay with an and-one on the other end of the floor.
But Maryland once again responded, as senior forward Faith Masonius hit a layup just over two minutes later to even the score at 79.
It ultimately couldn’t close out in the clutch though, and Iowa advanced to the Big Ten Championship game for the second year in a row, where it’ll face fourth-seeded Ohio State.
“Their starters just made a few more plays than us tonight, but we don’t need to hang our heads. We can go back and know that we left everything out there and then just correct it and be ready for what lies ahead,” Frese said.
Three things to know
1. Maryland failed to advance to the championship game for the second straight season. After back-to-back championships in 2020 and 2021, Maryland lost in the quarterfinals to Indiana last year. It was matched up against one of the highest-flying squads in the nation in this year’s semifinals, and the Hawkeyes edged out the Terps in the teams’ third meeting of the season.
2. Despite the loss, the Terps showed resilience. Iowa extended its lead to eight or more on five different occasions, but the Terps kept fighting back. They cut the lead to 85-84 with 25 seconds left after Briggs made a three. Ultimately, their responses fell just short.
“They won this game but I still feel like we’re the better team,” Miller said.
3. A thrilling game of basketball was decided by Maryland mistakes. Whether it be letting up offensive rebounds or missed free throws in timely spots, Maryland hurt itself a lot Saturday afternoon. But, it still had chances to win. Down three, Maryland had a shot to tie the game in the waning moments, but it failed to get a clean look off even after a timeout.
“We got to go back to the film because some of the stuff could be changed with turnovers and all that other stuff,” Miller added.