Hoops takeaways: Iowa shows NCAA Tournament merit, Maryland's suffocating press

Matthew Bain
Iowa's Megan Gustafson grabs an offensive rebound during the Hawkeyes' game against Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Hawkeyes played like an NCAA Tournament team in the second quarter Saturday against No. 3 Maryland. A team that could win a game or two, even.

They shot 63 percent (12-for-19) and 56 percent from 3 (5-for-9) in that quarter, when they outscored the Terrapins 31-16. They notched 10 assists on the 12 baskets, turned it over once, blocked two shots, snagged two steals and matched Maryland’s 13 rebounds.

They held the Terps to 32 percent (7-for-22) and 17 percent from 3-point range (1-for-6). Maryland recorded three assists and three turnovers, with no blocked shots or steals.

"I thought Iowa did phenomenal, especially with their play in the first half," Terps coach and Cedar Rapids native Brenda Frese said. "We came out aggressive early in the first quarter, but credit Iowa showing great resiliency. In the second quarter, they really took it to us with their great work ethic and confidence."

Big second quarter not enough for Iowa's upset bid vs. No. 3 Maryland

Maryland 6-foot-3 post Brionna Jones picked up her second foul three minutes into the quarter. She still played six of the 10 minutes, but she couldn’t be her normal, bruising self.

"She's easier to guard when she's sitting on the bench," Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.

Jones then played 19 of the final 20 minutes before fouling out with a little over 60 ticks left. So in 31 total minutes, she scored 25 on 9 of 14 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds (six offensive), committed one turnover, blocked one shot and got two steals.

When Jones was on the floor, Maryland was plus-23 points. When she was off the floor, it was minus-seven points.

So the takeaway here is pretty encouraging for Hawkeye fans: Technically, with Jones not playing and with Megan Gustafson more free to control the paint, Iowa outplayed Maryland.

But the Terps looked every bit like a Final Four team with Jones. She’s just a different kind of strong, a kind that’ll earn her quality minutes in the WNBA.

"I think Brionna Jones is one of the best centers in, not only the Big Ten, but in America," Bluder said. "She has tremendous foot work. I said it earlier in the week, she's so efficient with her foot work. She does such a great job of feeling. She's really a textbook post player that you really want to watch clips of because she's so good."

More on the press

Jones was also the key piece of Maryland’s stifling full-court press defense. Frese wanted to implement that defense in the second quarter, but couldn’t without Jones, she said.

No such problem in the second half. The Terps forced three turnovers on three consecutive possessions midway through the third and took a permanent 54-53 lead. Iowa's 16 total turnovers don't look so bad on the stat sheet, but 10 came in the second half.

"There’s not really any excuse for that because we have been working on that press over the past few days," said Ally Disterhoft, who finished with 18 points and two turnovers. "I just don’t think we took advantage of maybe some openings in that middle that we could have, especially. That middle was wide. And a few times we broke it pretty easily, but I think that was something we could’ve really focused on a little bit more. But it sped us up, and when you have a few consecutive turnovers, it’s sometimes a little bit harder to bounce back from that."

Maryland's rangy guards Ieshia Small (6 feet), Kaila Charles (6-1) and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (5-11) wreaked havoc in Iowa's backcourt. If the Hawkeyes did manage to break through the forest of arms, they'd have only about 20 seconds to get into their half-court offense with Jones waiting under the basket.

Davis getting to the charity stripe

Gustafson won the opening tip against Jones. Makenzie Meyer caught the ball, dribbled up the court and found Tania Davis at the top of the arc. Davis quickly moved left and sped by Maryland’s Destiny Slocum for an easy deuce to start the game.

Iowa’s 5-4 sophomore never slowed down. She scored seven more points in that first quarter and finished with a career-high 25 on seven made baskets, another career best.

"Davis for Iowa, she was getting great looks," Frese said. "Playing with great confidence, and Iowa fed off the energy and breaking down our defense."

It was the third straight game Davis has been noticeably more aggressive with drives inside

Through Iowa’s first two Big Ten contests, she took just two free throws and missed both. She’s gone 15-for-17 in the three games since.

No. 4 for Disterhoft

With her 18 points, Disterhoft now has 1,837 as a Hawkeye. That moves her past Michelle Edwards into fourth place all-time. She’s four points behind third-place Jamie Printy, 69 points behind second-place Lindsey Meder and 222 points behind first-place Cindy Haugejorde.

RPI watch

Iowa’s RPI actually jumped three spots to 70 after the loss. Rutgers, its next opponent, has an RPI of 166.

Bain covers Hawkeyes' basketball for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.