Having trailed for the previous 22 minutes of action, No. 17 Maryland women’s basketball desperately needed a spark to push itself back ahead of the scrappy Iowa Hawkeyes.
Doing so countless times in the past, senior guard Blair Watson stepped up and sank a three from the right wing, just the team’s second three-pointer of the night. But, keeping her head on a swivel, she darted for the inbound pass and quickly laid in two more, cutting what was once a 14-point Iowa lead to just one with 6:33 still left to play in the third quarter.
The Terps followed Watson’s lead to the tune of a 12-2 run to begin the second half, bringing them back even in Thursday night’s contest. But Maryland couldn’t pull away down the stretch in a game where it shot just 31 percent from the field and 16 percent from deep, losing 66-61 to the Hawkeyes.
“Iowa was sensational tonight,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Our defense kept us in the game tonight ... but we’re still continuing to grow with this team.”
Shooting just 7-for-41 from three-point land over its last three games, Maryland struggled once again to find the touch from beyond the arc in the early part of Thursday night’s contest. The team’s duo of outside threats in guards Taylor Mikesell and Watson shot 21 percent from three over that span and only connected on just one of their first seven attempts from three.
Conversely, the Hawkeyes sank each of their first six attempts from deep, going on to shoot 77.8 percent from the field in the first ten minutes to take an early lead over the Terps. Iowa’s dynamic backcourt duo of seniors Makenzie Meyer and Kathleen Doyle accounted for 19 of the team’s 26 first quarter points, showing no signs of being fazed by Maryland’s full court trap.
“I just think we weren’t committed as a whole on the court, we weren’t really talking,” senior guard Kaila Charles said of the slow defensive start. “So we had little slip-ups and they capitalized on it.”
But Iowa’s hot shooting start didn’t last, as Maryland’s constant defensive intensity in the half-court appeared to wear on the Hawkeyes as the half wore down. They failed to score a field goal over the final 6:18 of the second quarter, allowing Maryland to whittle down what was once a 14-point deficit to under 10 at the break.
“We had good fight and we were able to get stops on defense and it lead to our offense,” Charles said of the comeback effort. “It’s just something we have to do from the tip and be able to punch first and have it from the beginning.”
In spite of its shooting woes, Maryland eventually began to turn its focus to attacking inside the paint. Through its top two penetrators in sophomore forward Shakira Austin and Charles, the Terps looked to attack Iowa’s defense both on the drive and on the boards.
The two carried an offensive unit that couldn’t seem to get a shot to fall in the first half, notching eight and 13 points respectively while helping pull down a staggering 20 first half offensive rebounds. The team finished with a season-high 38 offensive rebounds, resulting in 25 second-chance points.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stat of 59 boards, 38 offensive,” Frese. “I thought the momentum of our defense really got us going.”
The Terps made their push in the third quarter, outscoring their opponent 17-10 despite shooting just 30.4 percent from the field. But they trailed 49-47 at the end of the period and the game remained a close battle the rest of the way.
Kicking into that extra gear down the stretch, Maryland’s defense put the clamps on Iowa for much of the final period. The Terps held the Hawkeyes scoreless for over four minutes in the period, with both teams being locked at 52-52 for almost three minutes of play.
But five straight points from Hawkeye guard Alexis Sevillian and four straight turnovers inside the last three minutes of play ultimately put the Terps away for good.
Three Things to Know
1. Maryland still can’t get that big road win. With a difficult road schedule including stops in Ann Arbor, Bloomington and Columbus still ahead of them, this year’s Maryland squad still has yet to pick up a resumé-buildng win away from home. The Terps are now 2-3 in road games this season (not including neutral sites) and will need to raise their level of play outside of College Park come Big Ten/NCAA Tournament time.
2. It was another great game for Kaila Charles. When no one else could seem to get a bucket, Charles once again was that go-to-player for the Terps in this one. She followed up her season-high 28 point performance against Ohio State on Monday with 23 points on 10-for-22 shooting in this one to lead Maryland in scoring while taking over down the stretch to help keep it close. She also ended the contest with a career-high 18 rebounds.
3. The Terps couldn’t take advantage of easy looks. Save for its outside shooting woes, Maryland didn’t do much to help itself with the easier looks Iowa gave up. There were several occasions where the likes of Charles, Austin and senior forward Stephanie Jones failed to knock down the shots that could have made this a victory.