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Takeaways from No. 3-seed Maryland women’s basketball’s Big Ten semifinal loss to No. 2-seed Iowa

The Terps failed to make the conference title game for the second straight year.

Iowa v Maryland Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

No. 2-seed Iowa women’s basketball held an early lead, but No. 3-seed Maryland women’s basketball’s resilience sent the game to a decisive fourth quarter at the Target Center in Minneapolis Saturday.

With under 30 seconds in regulation and trailing by one, Maryland senior guard Lavender Briggs’ game-winning 3-pointer misfired off the rim. Four consecutive free throws by Iowa guard McKenna Warnock put the game on ice, as the Hawkeyes held on for the 89-84 victory, advancing to their third consecutive Big Ten title game.

Iowa guard Gabbie Marshall poured in 21 points and tied a career-high with seven threes in a riveting game between Big Ten elites.

The Terps remain in play for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will wait for Selection Sunday on March 12 to see where they align on the bracket.

Iowa will take on No. 4-seed Ohio State in the title game. The Buckeyes defeated No. 1-seed Indiana, 79-75.

Let’s get into some takeaways from Saturday’s showdown.

Maryland and Iowa’s trilogy was an instant Big Ten Tournament thriller.

After Iowa and Maryland took care of business Friday, a third matchup in the Big Ten semifinals was set.

The third installment lived up to the hype from the opening tip.

Iowa jumped out to a quick 21-9 lead midway through the first quarter with three 3-pointers by Big Ten Player of the Year Caitlin Clark.

The Terps responded in the second quarter, outscoring the Hawkeyes 24-21 in the frame and heading into the half trailing by five (47-42).

“I thought it wasn’t one of our finer quarters and credit to Caitlin [Clark], I thought she was super motivated [to start fast],” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “I loved our response and to be in it that close at halftime, I felt like the second half was going to turn for us but two great teams going against each other possession by possession.”

The third quarter began with the Terps looking to string together consecutive possessions of offensive efficiency.

Maryland senior guard Abby Meyers scored seven of the team’s 19 points in the third quarter, as the defense held Iowa to a 5-for-16 showing from the field. Meyers’ jump shot with 39 seconds remaining in the third trimmed the Terps’ deficit to 64-61 heading into the final quarter.

Maryland and Iowa were deadlocked at 79 with two minutes left to play.

The Hawkeyes secured an offensive rebound, finding Marshall, who nailed her seventh 3-pointer to reclaim the lead.

“It’s a long game, they’re going to go on runs [and] we’re going to go on runs,” Marshall said. “We have to stick together, our circle’s tight just because we’ve been playing together for so long. That helps a lot in March.”

Both teams went back and forth in a competitive fourth quarter, but Iowa pulled away at the end for a narrow victory.

Maryland struggled to contain Caitlin Clark’s playmaking ability.

For the past three seasons, women’s college basketball has been a witness to the dynamic talent of Clark.

The 6-foot senior is a scoring threat once her feet touch halfcourt. Her three-point prowess and passing ability created an array of problems for Maryland’s defense.

Clark led all scorers with 22 points, but her nine assists played a huge role as well..

With fewer than two minutes expired in the first quarter, Clark pushed the pace in transition, finding separation and hitting a deep step-back 3-pointer.

Then in the third quarter, Clark took a few dribbles past halfcourt and drilled another three-pointer, seemingly from the nearby U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Hawkeyes sank 15-of-40 of their attempts from distance, with Marshall and Clark combining for 12.

“We shot 40 threes tonight. That’s a lot of threes. That’s a lot for us. We shot a good percentage from there, 40 of our 68 shots were threes [and] that’s not ideal for us.” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said.

On several possessions, Iowa center Monika Czinano (15 points) sealed defenders in the post, as she looked to use her 6-foot-3 frame to exploit Maryland’s lack of interior presence. As a result, Clark consistently found Czinano for favorable looks at the rim.

“I knew I had to distribute to get my teammates involved and that was the way we were going to win this game,” Clark said. “I’m really happy that I could have nine assists, Kate [Martin] also had seven. We had 24 [assists] as a team on 31 made baskets, so that’s pretty incredible.”

After scoring 11 total points in their first two matchups, Warnock brought her best to the conference semifinals.

Warnock scored 21 points while going 6-for-12 from the field with three triples.

With shots from distance raining in and Iowa’s others contributing, defenses are at Clark’s mercy on how to defend her. Defending the three-point line is a must whenever facing Clark and Iowa. But Clark’s playmaking only creates additional problems for opposing defenses.

Clark advanced to her third consecutive Big Ten title game on Saturday. When asked how it feels to accomplish an impressive feat in tournament play, Clark simply responded with a smirk and a short phrase.

“It’s all I know,” Clark said.

Maryland’s fourth-quarter turnovers proved to be pivotal.

Postseason play is here, and protecting the basketball increases in importance during the month of March.

The Terps were within striking distance in the final quarter after sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers’ layup trimmed its deficit to 70-68 with under seven minutes to go.

Looking to run in transition, Sellers collected a defensive rebound and threw a pass to Maryland junior guard Diamond Miller. The pass, behind Miller, led to a turnover as the ball traveled out of bounds.

Iowa instantly made Maryland pay with a Warnock three to stretch its lead to five.

On Maryland’s ensuing possession, Miller’s pass attempt sailed out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Hawkeyes.

Maryland’s two turnovers culminated in a 6-0 run for Iowa, as the former’s momentum dissipated.

“Those are gonna haunt me. They were tough. I thought they were more fatigue-based [and] I didn’t think it was a result of their defense. I thought for us, it was a loss of focus and fatigue on tired legs. Costly. Those are the things that you’re talking about when games come down to possessions, crowds in it, you’ve got to be able to be more mentally focused,” Frese said.

In Maryland’s loss, it failed to execute down the stretch with four turnovers in the final minute. Late-game possessions are precious in postseason play, so executing bodes well for securing victories during this time of the month.

The Terps will have extended time to work on their late game execution before their NCAA Tournament first-round matchup on March 17 or 18.