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Three takeaways from No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball’s win over Iowa

The Terps scored 111 points in what was another dominant offensive showcase.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball captured its sixth straight victory over a Big Ten opponent Tuesday afternoon, dismantling Iowa’s defense in a 111-93 win.

The Terps dominated early and often over the Hawkeyes, which propelled them to another win at home in Xfinity Center.

Maryland improves to a 13-1 record within the Big Ten and moves to 17-2 overall on the season. The Terps have yet to fall at home, now with a 9-0 record in Xfinity Center.

“We were disappointed the first time when we weren’t able to play this game,” Frese said. “But a blessing in disguise when you look at how much more improved we are as a team.”

Here are my three biggest takeaways from the win over Iowa.

Maryland’s strong start in the first quarter put the game out of reach.

In a matchup between two of the highest scoring offenses in the nation, Maryland packed the first lethal punch in the opening quarter.

Maryland guard Diamond Miller kicked off the game with two threes and the Terps never looked back from that point.

The Terps went on a tear shooting wise in the first frame, hitting a dazzling 15 of their 22 shots from the field, which is around the 68% mark. Katie Benzan was red-hot as well with lights-out shooting from deep. She collected 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting from behind the arc in the first 10 minutes of play.

Benzan went on to break the program record for most three-pointers made in a single game with nine. The transfer finished with a season-high 29 points on nearly 91% shooting from the floor and 9-for-10 from deep.

Miller and Benzan combined for a grand total of 29 points in the first quarter alone, with the duo shooting 10-for-11 from the field and 8-for-8 from three-point range. Those two alone outscored Iowa’s first quarter point total by eight.

Ashley Owusu quietly was in the mix as well, tacking on eight points in the quarter and adding five assists, with some of those dishes going directly to Benzan.

“I try to stay moving so the defense loses me and then, honestly though, it’s Ashley,” Benzan said. “Like, I’m open for a second and she finds me, and that’s hard to do as a point guard and I’m just blessed to play with her — let’s put it like that.”

The hot start on the offensive end also translated to strong defense, which has been a recipe for success during the Terps’ current six-game winning streak. The Hawkeyes committed seven turnovers in the opening quarter, which translated to even more points on the other end for the Terps. Maryland went on a 16-3 run late in the first quarter and seemed to get a bucket on the offensive end on nearly every possession.

When the buzzer sounded to close out the opening frame, the Terps found themselves up 41-21, which was a big enough lead to go on cruise control the rest of the way. The 41 points were the most that Maryland has scored in a quarter this season. The team kept it going to have 68 points by the halftime break, setting a Big Ten record for the most points in a first half of a conference game.

“At halftime we were in disbelief,” head coach Brenda Frese said in a TV interview after the game. “I don’t know if I have ever been apart of a game like that, to be able to see a half like that.”

Angel Reese’s return is key for Maryland moving forward

The biggest surprise of the afternoon was when five-star freshman forward Angel Reese stepped onto the floor for the first time since Dec. 3, 2020.

Frese said the day before the Iowa game that the team was being “cautiously optimistic” with Reese’s recovery in hopes of her returning for postseason play. Reese was expected to miss three months due to a broken foot she suffered in early December in a win over Towson.

However, seemingly out of nowhere, Reese trotted out onto the court and played what ended up being 12 minutes on the floor. She returned to action just 10 and a half weeks after surgery.

Reese was able to score eight points in her return on 2-for-2 shooting, and she chipped in with three rebounds, an assist and a block as well.

“I think [Reese] has been progressing really well and I was happy for her,” Owusu said. “I know the type of person she is and she was ready to get back and get playing with us.”

The No. 2 overall player in the 2020 class and the No. 1 wing ranked by ESPN is just another boost on both ends of the floor for the already talent-filled Terps. Her length, quickness and power inside makes her another dangerous weapon for Frese on the floor.

“Obviously, she’s been cleared and we were waiting to make sure she went through practice yesterday and she wasn’t too sore going into today,” Frese said. “She feels great, obviously she wants to play as many minutes as possible, and I thought she gave us tremendous energy today.”

Before her injury, Reese averaged 17.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and and 2.0 blocks per game in three appearances. Her return to action will certainly have a positive impact on the nation's highest scoring offense as the postseason rapidly approaches.

The top two scoring teams in the nation certainly did not disappoint

Offensive fireworks were expected coming into this matchup between the No. 1 and No. 2 scoring offenses in the nation, with Maryland averaging 92.4 points per game and Iowa averaging 87.9 points per game prior.

However, those scoring expectations were blown away with both teams’ play through 40 minutes. Both of these talented squads were operating at an astonishing pace, which resulted in a total of 204 points scored on the afternoon.

In the first-half alone, the Terps put up a season-high 68 points, which also set the first-half record for a Big Ten conference game. The previous high was 65 points by Iowa in 2000.

Maryland shot 66% from the floor in the first 20 minutes and hit 12 of its 16 three-point attempts as well. The Terps had three players in double-figures at the end of the half.

“Can’t say enough about this game, the top two scoring teams in the country,” Frese said. “That first half was like a game I’ve never seen before. To be able to see how unselfish we were – we were ready to play from the tip. Both teams, to be able to score that many points before halftime, was tremendous.”

Iowa’s freshman phenom Caitlin Clark had a stunning first two quarters. She had 29 points on 9-for-13 shooting and she went 8-for-11 from behind the arc for the Hawkeyes.

Maryland and Iowa combined for 43-for-68 from the field in the first half and a 70.5% clip from deep in what was an offensive barrage.

The second half saw much of the same and both teams were able to score at least 19 points in the remaining two quarters.

When the final buzzer sounded, Maryland shot the ball at a 61.2% clip, while Iowa managed to shoot at 55.6% from the field. There were 32 total three-pointers between both teams, just four shy of the all-time NCAA record.

Maryland’s 111 points marked the fifth time this season when it’s scored 100+ points in a single game, making them the only team in the country to do so. The Terps have reached the century mark against then-No. 14 Arkansas, Towson, James Madison, Illinois and now Iowa.

“Just the firepower,” Frese said of her team’s offense’s ability and depth. “I just thought we made a lot of great plays and you see the different weapons between the players on our team, of just how unselfish they are and when they’re sharing the basketball.”