IOWA CITY, Iowa — A real test of the No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes standing as a legitimate national contender in NCAAW basketball was against the red-hot No. 13 Maryland Terrapins at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Monday night.
Coming into this contest, both teams were 10-3 in Big Ten play and needed to win in order to remain in good standing in a highly competitive conference with the tournament just around the corner.
The Hawkeyes have endured a grueling February that has been filled with injuries afflicting some of their top talent like junior guards Gabbie Marshall and McKenna Warnock. They’ve pulled off some gutsy performances, as they did in their 88-78 win over Minnesota last Wednesday.
Marshall played Monday night, but Warnock (wrist) did not. On the Maryland side, star point guard Ashley Owusu (ankle) sat out.
As for Iowa’s star, Caitlin Clark — she continues to add to her growing legend as she has been getting major props from the likes of Kevin Durant, Trae Young, and Jay Bilas, the last of whom proclaimed that she is the best player in the country male or female.
Meanwhile, the Terps came in on a six-game winning streak and steamrolled Wisconsin last Wednesday, 70-43.
A must-win on the line and a must-see was in the making.
From the opening bell, Maryland had the height advantage but Iowa had the speed advantage. At first, the Hawkeyes were better at getting in transition and moving the ball around. They were more loose. Maryland was rather tight and relied on outside jumpers for the most part instead of going to the paint.
Nevertheless, with 4:40 remaining in the first it was a close contest with Iowa leading 13-9.
Maryland’s defense did all it could to stymie Clark’s ability to score, knowing that would energize the Hawkeyes. With 2:50 remaining in the opening frame, Clark hadn’t scored a single point. At times, she was knocked to the ground by the Terps in attempts at forcing an offensive foul. It was almost as if they took a page out of the Bad Boy Pistons’ book and implemented the “Caitlin Rules.” The Hawkeyes had to go to Monika Czinano in the lane and she ended up with eight first-quarter points.
But when the buzzer of the first rang, Maryland was picking up the pace with a 15-6 run and led 24-19. Sophomore forward/guard Angel Reese matched Czinano with eight points.
As the second quarter commenced, the Terps were in control of the game in every way. They got out in transition, made crucial baskets and dominated on the offensive boards, a notorious weak spot for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa was sluggish as it committed numerous turnovers and missed easy baskets. Its defense was overwhelmed by Maryland’s height. Also, Iowa’s bench was still depleted, so there was little opportunity to give other players a shot at giving the team a jolt.
At 5:20 in the second quarter, Clark finally made a field goal with a drive in the lane. But with 4:40 left in the quarter, the Terps lead 37-27. As the clock wound down to halftime, the sentiment was that it would take a miracle for the Hawkeyes to stay competitive with the way things were going.
Going into the locker room, Maryland was leading 48-33 and Reese had 18 points.
In the third, the Hawkeyes continued to be stifled in every way imaginable and were showing signs of exhaustion. Czinano was continuing a rather solid performance, but she was virtually on her own when it came to grabbing boards.
At the 5:10 mark of the third, Clark scored her 11th point off her first three of the game and forced a foul on Reese that briefly got the crowd back into it.
But any hope of a comeback was quickly derailed as the Hawkeyes continued to miss easy baskets and turn over the ball. Also, their defense was not in sync.
Maryland junior guard Diamond Miller scored her 16th point 2:48 to go before the fourth, putting the Terps up 61-43. However, as the third entered its final stages, there was a slight change in the air as Iowa started clawing its way back. At the 1:50 mark Czinano scored her 16th point and shortly thereafter senior guard Tomi Taiwo scored off a steal to bring the Hawkeyes within 12 at 61-49.
The crowd really got back into it with Clark coming alive at the 1:02 mark with a huge three to bring the game back to single digits at 61-52.
In the last six seconds of the quarter, Miller and Clark traded threes with Clark hitting hers at the buzzer, giving her 17 points. The Terps led 66-55 entering the fourth, which began with so much hype and anticipation of a potential Iowa comeback.
Between the 8:59 and 8:19 marks, freshman forward/center Addison O’Grady scored two huge baskets to bring the Hawkeyes within seven. The Terps were starting to miss shots they previously made and were losing their edge on the offensive glass. They also turned the ball over via traveling a couple times.
At the 6:38 mark, Marshall completed a basket off an inbound from Clark to bring it to 66-61 and the Hawkeyes were on a 6-0 run.
However, at the 5:47 mark, Reese ended Maryland’s drought with her 24th point and at 5:22 Katie Benzan hit a three to bring it back to a 10-point game at 71-61.
B1G BENZAN BUCKET pic.twitter.com/Yah0OIGTmq— Maryland Women’s Basketball (@TerpsWBB) February 15, 2022
Between the 3:27 and 3:05 marks, Chloe Bibby scored five points to give the Terps a 76-63 lead, quieting the Hawkeye faithful. Maryland came out victorious, 81-69.
This loss is not good for Iowa (16-7, 10-4 Big Ten) given that three of their four remaining regular-season games are against the Top 10 (No. 5 Indiana on Saturday and next Monday and No. 9 Michigan on Feb. 27).
But Clark, who scored 19 points, says she’s not worried, even with the injuries.
“We got what we got and that’s what we’re gonna play with” she said. “It doesn’t really matter who is putting on the uniform, they are gonna go out and compete. That’s what our program is about.”
The Terps, on the other hand, improved to 19-6 (11-3 Big Ten) and can celebrate their second win over a ranked team. Reese was phenomenal, finishing with 25 points and 13 rebounds (six offensive).
“My teammates know if they miss a shot, I am there to clean it up,” Reese said. “I tried to do what I can do for the team and whatever it takes to get the job done, I am going to do it.”