IOWA CITY, Ia. — A young Iowa team that came surging into a hyped environment clung to life by the time fourth-quarter action commenced. It was a circuitous evening as the Hawkeyes tried to land a big early-January blow. Stretches of brilliance and futility blended together for a tantalizing showing.
Iowa emerged on top.
After coughing up first-half success with third-quarter sputtering, Iowa dug in and finished off the opportunity it was presented. Winning-time contributions all around pushed the Hawkeyes to Thursday’s 66-61 win over No. 16 Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It was Iowa’s first step in breaking loose from a congested conference pack.
"We're playing a lot of people who maybe haven't had experience in those types of games in that environment — and to just be so resilient — I'm so proud of of the way we trusted the process," said senior Kathleen Doyle, who had a team-high 21 points. "We stayed together really well through the ups and the downs.
"That's what you have to do in this conference."
A Big Ten series once featuring serious lopsided lean now stands more upright thanks to Iowa’s recent run. After Maryland joined the league, the Hawkeyes lost their first six matchups against the Terrapins. Many of those showdowns weren’t close.
Since then, Iowa has won three straight — all in less than a calendar year.
While last year’s route in a top-15 matchup and Big Ten Tournament title-game win are the more glamorous of the three, Thursday’s victory illustrates how far these Hawkeyes (12-3, 3-1 Big Ten Conference) have come. Even with a loss Sunday versus No. 13 Indiana, Iowa should still be approaching ranked status after its Terp toppling.
"I'm really proud of our resilience because it's a good thing this wasn't gymnastics. There weren't' style points for sure," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "But a win is a win. We shot well, better than they did from every area, but what I'm proud about is how we battled.
"... I thought our leadership was amazing out there."
The Hawkeyes won this one with grit. Doyle and Makenzie Meyer (20) unsurprisingly led the charge, also getting significant help from Alexis Sevillian (15). The redshirt junior had five straight points late in the fourth quarter, which allowed Iowa to turn the closing stretch into a free-throw contest. Doyle, Meyer, Sevillian and Amanda Ollinger combined for six of them in the last 49 seconds.
It was a needed finish, after Iowa scored just 10 third-quarter points and had a 1-for-16 shooting stretch. Maryland climbed back in as a result, briefly leading in the second half while racking up a staggering 38 offensive rebounds. But Iowa’s defense held Maryland to 31% shooting from the field (26-for-84) and 16% from deep (4-for-25).
That won’t get it done on the road. And anyone rarely does these days inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa has won 29 straight home games, now the second-longest active streak after Connecticut fell Thursday against Baylor. It's been nearly two full years since Iowa last lost at home on Jan. 28, 2018, against Nebraska. Confidence and poise ooze from Carver Hawkeye when the team locks in.
Thursday was the latest chapter. A season that began full of questions is now loaded with answers after Iowa's emphatic showing.
"They are (ahead of schedule)," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "Doyle and Meyer are just doing what seniors do ... and then Sevillian had another big night. They just play really well within themselves. Everybody knows their role, and they play to their strengths. They don't take bad shots or force, and they share the basketball.
"They just play like a team that looks very experienced."
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.