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No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball vs. Iowa preview

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The Terps will play their second-to-last home game as the postseason rapidly approaches.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 20 Womens - Minnesota at Maryland Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No. 9 Maryland women’s basketball (16-2, 12-1 Big Ten) will be taking on the Iowa Hawkeyes in College Park Tuesday as the Terps seek to remain undefeated at home.

“We’re excited about another opportunity to play, especially against a great opponent in Iowa,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Should be a fun game when you talk about two of the highest scoring teams in the country, should be a lot of beautiful basketball when you talk about scoring.”

Maryland is rolling at the moment with a perfect 5-0 record in its last five games. The latest win for Frese’s squad came against Minnesota in a dominant 94-62 win at Xfinity Center last Saturday afternoon.

Maryland will look to improve on its strong 12-1 Big Ten record and 8-0 record in College Park. After putting up 94 points on Minnesota on its home court last time out, Maryland is still atop the nation in scoring with 92.4 points per game.

Star freshman Angel Reese is still recovering from her foot injury and will continue to be sidelined in game play, but she is starting to take part in team practices. Frese said she is hopeful that the dynamic forward will make her highly anticipated return in the postseason. If Reese eventually makes her way back onto the court, the nation’s best offense adds another dominant weapon.

“Angel is unreal, her energy has been great all year,” forward Alaysia Styles said. “Just having her on the court finally is something I've never seen before. She has a different energy I’ve never seen, especially as a freshman.”

Tuesday’s game between these two Big Ten teams will air on Big Ten Network at 1 p.m. Let’s take a look at what Maryland is up against in Iowa.

Iowa Hawkeyes (12-6, 8-6 Big Ten)

2019-20 record: 23-7 (14-4 Big Ten)

Head coach Lisa Bluder is the all-time winningest coach in program history for the Iowa women’s basketball program. This is Bluder’s 21st season at the helm of the Hawkeyes and she has led Iowa to 18 postseason appearances in her coaching career. Before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off the 2019-20 season, Iowa had advanced to the postseason in 12 straight seasons.

Bluder has coached the Hawkeyes into a fair amount of success in the 2020-21 campaign. The Hawkeyes have accumulated a 8-6 Big Ten record and have a 8-3 record at home. However, Iowa sits in seventh place in the Big Ten and is 2-2 in its last four games.

Players to know

Caitlin Clark, freshman guard, 6’0, No. 22 — Caitlin Clark is easily the most effective and dangerous offensive threat on this Hawkeyes roster. Despite being a freshman, Clark had big expectations surrounding her coming into this season. The West Des Moines, Iowa, native was a five-star recruit coming into his season and was ranked the fourth overall prospect in her class by ESPN. She has only lived up to those expectations 18 games into the 2020-21 season.

“Caitlin Clark is, in my opinion, the best freshman in the country with the things that she’s doing on the basketball court against such high level competition,” Frese said.

Clark averages the most points on the Hawkeyes with almost 26.6 points per game on 47% shooting from the floor. She also averages the second-most rebounds on the team and averages a team-high 6.4 assists per contest. She’ll be all over the court come Tuesday and the Terps will need to focus their defensive effort directly towards Clark to avoid any upset bid.

Monika Czinano, junior forward/center, 6’3, No. 25 — Playing second fiddle to Clark, Monika Czinano is Iowa’s best presence in the paint. She has started in all 18 games this season for the Hawkeyes and averages just over 19.2 points per game, which is good enough for second on the team. The junior only averages six rebounds per game, however, she is most effective when she's taking her desired shots in the paint. Czinano is shooting 67% from the floor this season, which is the most efficient shooting percentage on the team. Czinano’s a reliable scorer and she will certainly be a problem for the Terps in the paint area.

McKenna Warnock, sophomore guard/forward, 6’1, No. 14 — Maryland will need to pay attention to both Clark and Czinano on the defensive end, but the Terps will see a lot of McKenna Warnock on the floor as well. The sophomore averages 32 minutes per game and averages the most rebounds on the team with nine per game.

Warnock is another versatile player for Bluder’s team, as she is a force in the paint as well as behind the arc. In 17 games, she is shooting at a team-best 46% clip from three-point range. Warnock will have to be on her best game if the Hawkeyes want any chance to keep up with the Terps’ high-flying offense.

Strength

Scoring ability. Similarly to the Terps, the Hawkeyes are excellent at putting up points on their opponents. They also score with eye-opening efficiency, too. Iowa shoots at a 51% mark from the field as a team and it connects on nearly nine three-point attempts per game. As a result, the Hawkeyes average the second-most points per game in the nation, right behind the Terps, with 87.9 points per game. Expect this matchup between Maryland and Iowa to be somewhat of a shootout, as both teams excel on the offensive end of the court.

Weakness

Committing Turnovers. Despite being a high-scoring team, Iowa struggles with its turnovers. The Hawkeyes average over 15 turnovers per game and their handling of the ball could be an issue with the Terps’ defense improving greatly over the last few games. Look for Maryland to take advantage of Iowa’s turnovers issues with an up-tempo and aggressive defensive scheme.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland’s defense continue to be dominant? Since its 88-86 loss to then-No. 17 Ohio State on the road back on Jan. 25, Maryland has won five straight games and has allowed over 70 points to an opponent just once over that span. The Terps are allowing a grand total of 58.6 points per game over the course of their current winning streak. If the Terps are able to shut down the Hawkeyes on the offensive end in any capacity, Frese and Maryland may just come out with its 17th win on the season.

“I think it will definitely be a defensive battle, you know, for both teams and who can really stop who,” Frese said. “But I know that we’re really looking forward to the matchup.”

2. Will the Terps be able to keep up their strong free-throw shooting? Against Minnesota, Maryland shot 19-for-21 from the free-throw line, which is upwards of 90%, but that mark is nothing new. Through 18 games, Maryland is shooting an average of 80.5% from the charity stripe. That’s good enough for the fifth-best team free-throw percentage in the entire nation. Keep an eye out for the Terps’ continued success from the free-throw line.

“It’s big, I mean when you’re talking about late game and coming down to possessions, being able to step up,” Frese said. “It’s really, really important to have great free-throw shooters at the line.”

3. Which offense will come out on top? With two of the top scoring teams in the nation facing off, it’s expected to be an offensive fest when both squads hit the Xfinity Center on Tuesday afternoon. Don’t be surprised if both teams surpass at least 80+ points, as both Maryland and Iowa average marks that are higher than that bar. It should be a very fun, fast-paced game to watch and it’s lining up to be one of the most entertaining games of the season from an offensive standpoint.