By Susan Harman
IOWA CITY, Iowa – After falling to Maryland Monday night, Iowa will apparently play the role of spoiler rather than contender for the rest of the Big Ten season.
Maryland’s 81-69 victory leaves the Terps (19-6, 11-3) in a group of three (with Ohio State & Michigan) with three loses, one game behind Indiana, which was upset Monday by Nebraska. The Terps still have games against Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana.
Iowa drops to 16-7, 10-4 and still has two games against Indiana and one against Michigan along with a road trip to Rutgers.
Iowa is mathematically still alive, but it has to climb over a lot of teams. It is still missing a signature victory in conference play to boost its NCAA tournament resume. Its best conference victories are the two against Nebraska and one against Michigan State.
The loss also impacts Iowa’s seed at the Big Ten tournament.
“(A double bye) is always the goal,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “But it’s going to be hard to get now. Ohio State has a pretty easy remaining schedule. We lose the tiebreaker with Maryland and Ohio State.”
For three quarters Maryland completely throttled the Hawkeyes. Iowa shot poorly, particularly from the perimeter. When facing a team with the size and athletic ability of Maryland, the Hawkeyes had to counter by making threes. The Hawkeyes finished shooting just 20 percent from behind the arc. Maryland shot 45 percent.
Credit Maryland’s perimeter defense, which bottled up Iowa star Caitlin Clark with a double team. Clark scored 19 points but was only 7-of-25 from the field and made 3-of-13 threes.
“They were glued to me,” Clark said. “That’s how it’s going to be from hereon out. It’s not really a defense I’ve seen a lot. I think I could have handled it a little better.”
The Terps also jammed up the lane with Angel Reese (6-foot-3), Diamond Miller (6-3) and Shyanne Sellers (6-2), but really every one of Maryland’s players had a hand in shutting down the Iowa offense.
“Their defense is different because they front the post, and they switch on every single screen,” Bluder said. “Nobody else in the Big Ten does that. Their length also hurts you. They’re very long and very athletic, and it makes it tough.”
“They’re really long and they switch one through five,” Clark said. “They were physical with me, and it bothered me more than it should have. I don’t think I got many clean looks.”
Maryland made 26-of-53 shots through three quarters, including 7-of-16 threes. Reese was a huge problem for Iowa’s defense, slicing through with ease and finishing with 25 points.
“She drives really well from the perimeter and her ability to crash (the boards) is really good as well,” Bluder said.
Iowa put together a 10-0 run to cut the lead to nine late in the third quarter and continued to rally in the fourth after implementing a zone defense.
Iowa got within five points with 7 minutes left. Iowa had the ball after a turnover and the crowd was roaring, but an errant pass gave the Terps the ball. Maryland answered with a Reese basket and a Katie Benzan three to bump the lead to 10. That was that.
The Terps out-rebounded Iowa by 16 and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds. Iowa committed 19 turnovers, 10 by Clark who was hounded for all 40 of her minutes.
“We gave up way too many offensive rebounds,” Bluder said. “That continues to be a problem for us.
We kept fighting. This crowd was amazing for us tonight.”
Maryland coach Brenda Frese called it a “special win” in front of family and friends from Cedar Rapids.
“But what’s even more special is how the team played tonight against a really, really good Iowa team,” she said. “Made us work for the entire 40 minutes and obviously our league is one of the best in the nation. Our schedule has prepared us to be resilient. We’re peaking at the right time.”