Maryland women’s basketball faced its toughest test of the season Sunday, a road battle against No. 14 Iowa. And after a back-and-forth contest, the Hawkeyes were able to defend their home court and give the Terrapins their third loss of the season, an 86-73 defeat.
The Terps had the difficult task of containing Megan Gustafson, who leads the entire nation in scoring with 27.3 points per game and ranks fourth with 13 rebounds. The senior forward was utterly dominant inside, finishing with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the floor and 11-of-12 from the free throw line. She also added 17 rebounds to help Iowa win the battle on the glass. Maryland contained her in the first half, but then she recorded 24 points and 12 boards after halftime.
Stephanie Jones led the way for Maryland with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field. Taylor Mikesell had another impressive shooting performance, as she made six of her 12 field goal attempts and finished with 14 points, second on the team. Blair Watson hit double figures again, scoring 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and a 3-of-4 mark from long range. Kaila Charles was hampered with five fouls, but that didn’t cause her to miss shots. The Terrapins’ leading scorer finished with just two points after shooting 1-of-13 from the floor, and her absence on offense was a difference-maker.
Maryland got into foul trouble early and stayed in it throughout the game, as the Terrapins were whistled for 25 fouls to just 10 for Iowa. That led to a huge discrepancy from the charity stripe, as the Hawkeyes made 27-of-29 free throws. The Terps made just four of their eight attempts.
Blair Watson, who was sidelined early with foul trouble, started the game with a three-point basket, but it was Iowa that found early success. The Hawkeyes immediately responded with an 11-4 run and took a 17-14 lead into the second quarter. Iowa continued its assault into the next period, as Hannah Stewart scored four points in just over a minute to balloon the lead to seven points.
But all of a sudden, the Hawkeyes forgot how to score and couldn’t get a single point in nearly four minutes of action. The Terrapins took full advantage, going on an 11-0 run in less than three minute to retake the lead. The two freshman accounted for nine of those points, as Mikesell drained a pair of triples and Austin converted an and-one.
Gustafson wasn’t going to be held to a measly two points for long, and she finished the half by scoring five points over the final two minutes. That effort was good enough to even the score, and the teams went into the locker rooms tied at 33.
Holding the nation’s leading scorer to seven points in the first half was a tremendous accomplishment, but Gustafson broke out after the break. She scored 12 points in nine minutes of action, and her impressive free-throw shooting—she made six of her seven attempts. Iowa started the quarter on a 14-7 run, with eight of those points coming on foul shots. The Hawkeyes extended their lead to seven points midway through the quarter, and a late push to end the period saw them take a 58-48 lead with 55 seconds to go. Watson’s midrange jumper to close it out made sure the Terps were down single digits entering the fourth quarter.
The Terps had gone away quietly in their two losses earlier this season, but on Sunday, they fought to the final whistle. They began the period on a 9-0 run, briefly taking the lead back from Iowa in just over two minutes. However, Maryland was unable to overcome Gustafson and Iowa’s free-throw shooting. The senior scored eight straight points to extend the lead to seven, and while Channise Lewis’ three got Maryland within one point with 3:25 to play, the Hawkeyes pulled away for the win.
The Terps return home to host Minnesota on Thursday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be watched on BTN Plus.
Three things to know
1. Megan Gustafson is good. Gustafson is the leading scorer in the country with 27.3 points per game, and against Maryland, she showed exactly why. Though she was less efficient than usual from the field—she made 10 of her 118 field goal attempts—she was nearly perfect from the free-throw line, hitting 11-of-12. And if that wasn’t enough, Gustafson added 17 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
2. The Terps were in foul trouble. Brenda Frese is known for being extremely conservative in terms of playing players with multiple fouls. But against Iowa, the coach had little choice. It seemed as though the Terrapins were whistled for a foul on nearly every possession, and they racked up 25 as a team. That included five on Brianna Fraser alone, who was disqualified with just over four minutes to go. Kaila Charles, Maryland’s leading scorer, was held scoreless and finished with five personal fouls as well.
3. It’s a tie at the top of the Big Ten. Both Iowa and Maryland now have 12-3 records in conference play. But with the Hawkeyes’ win, they’ll own the tiebreaker should the teams finish evened up at the end of the regular season. That will not only affect Big Ten tournament seeding, but could be the difference in NCAA Tournament seeding as well. Iowa was one spot ahead of Maryland in the committee’s reveal this week, and likely solidified that Sunday.