With a little over five minutes left in the third quarter against No. 17 Iowa, sophomore forward Shakira Austin was cut in-front of by a Hawkeye defender, resulting in turnover for No. 10 Maryland women’s basketball.
On the other end of the floor, Austin answered back as she deflected a pass back towards the Maryland basket, picked it up, hit a behind-the back-dribble and then a spin move that led to an open layup. The score was two of Austin’s 13 third quarter points as part of the Terps’ 93-59 win Thursday night.
“I like this mean Shakira,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “She was angry. I don’t know what she was. She was dynamic. She just separated herself tonight and she was just so aggressive, like ‘I can handle business when you’re going to the rim that hard.’”
Austin was one of five Maryland players in double figures, finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. She also added two steals and a block on the defensive end.
“I get it from my dad,” Austin said. “He says ‘I wish you would play mean from the jump,’ I’m like ‘It doesn’t work like that sometimes,’ but I’m gonna try.”
Austin has scored in double figures for six of the last eight games during this Maryland win streak. With her on fire from the field and at the free throw line, the Terps have a near-unstoppable force on their side.
Two of her largest performances have come at home against ranked opponents — also scoring 22 points against then No. 17 Indiana on Jan.20.
Along with Austin, senior Stephanie Jones added 16 points on 8-of-8 shooting and six rebounds. That duo played a key part in 58 points scored in the paint by the Terps, who scored just 30 points inside against Rutgers on Sunday.
“That duo, with the two of them, [Iowa] didn’t have an answer,” Frese said “They were getting anything they wanted inside.”
The Jan. 9 meeting against Iowa was the beginning of an 11-game streak where Frese put Austin and Jones in the starting lineup and moved freshman guard Ashley Owusu to an off-the-bench role.
For many teams, it can be a struggle to combat the 6’2 Jones and 6’5 Austin alone, let alone at the same time.
“Yeah, it can be very tough to guard us especially like the way we play inside out,” Jones said ahead of Thursday’s game. “Everybody moving the ball sharing the ball and just like having fun.”
Even with the offensive production, Austin and Jones made their mark on the defensive end, which the stats don’t show. Both forwards stepped up throughout the rematch against Iowa and covered Hawkeye guards and did not allow mismatches.
On the defensive end, the duo combined for four of Maryland’s 15 steals and held Iowa to 26 points in the paint.
“They do it a lot for us,” senior Kaila Charles said. “Shakira is basically out anchor on defense and you can see that they can switch on the point guard, they can switch out the guards, they can guard the post. The can do a lot and I like the fact that they’re so versatile, and we need that.”
With the dominant effort, Maryland was able to take sole possession of first place in the Big Ten and has four regular season games remaining to keep tuning-up the mean streak for March.