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Iowa women's basketball: No. 20 Hawkeyes feel 'we can play with anybody' ahead of Maryland rematch

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — For the first four years of Maryland’s Big Ten Conference tenure, the Terrapins walked all over Iowa and the rest of the league without much resistance. Six Hawkeye matchups, six Maryland wins — five of which came by double figures.

Things are starting to shift.

The No. 20 Hawkeyes enter Thursday’s massive, 5 p.m. showdown at XFINITY Center having won three straight against 10th-ranked Maryland, most recently toppling the Terps 66-61 on Jan. 9. This run has injected assurance that Iowa can run with the beasts. It’ll need that assurance and more ahead of what could be a Big Ten title-deciding showdown.

“When you’re competing in this conference against great people like Maryland — and people who are ranked in the top-10 to 15 in the country — and you’re beating them, it gives you that confidence that we can play with anybody,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “That’s huge, that mental edge. Hopefully, we’ve gotten to (Maryland) a little bit too.”  

Maryland forward Shakira Austin (1) looks to pass as Iowa guard Alexis Sevillian (5) defends during a NCAA college Big Ten Conference women's basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa (20-4 overall, 11-2 Big Ten) and Maryland (20-4, 11-2) sit tied atop the league with five conference games remaining. Completing the season sweep would give the Hawkeyes a pivotal tiebreaker if needed. Couple that with Iowa’s win over Northwestern — which sits a half-game back in third — and the Hawkeyes would be sitting pretty.  

What’s been missing, though, during this Maryland run is a win in College Park. Iowa has conquered the Terps twice in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and once in the Big Ten Tournament title game, but the Hawkeyes sit 0-3 all-time at XFINITY Center. The past two matchups there haven’t been close.

Iowa, however, has held its own in enemy territory. Sunday’s 83-71 win at Purdue punctuated another road rally, which saw the Hawkeyes own the closing stretch after the Boilermakers got within two early in the fourth quarter. Both of Iowa’s Big Ten slip-ups have come away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but it’s clear this squad’s maturity translates into hostile environments.

“The mental edge is so important in college athletics, I think,” Bluder said. “We talk about that in our huddles. We talk about, ‘Hey we’ve been here before.’ And so I think that gives them confidence that they can look back on it, and that they know they’ve done it over and over again — where we’ve been in tight situations and pulled it out.

“… That mental part is so important, as is relying on your past when it’s positive.”

The past matchup against Maryland was positive in outcome, but not in style points. The Terrapins outrebounded Iowa by 24 — including a 33-7 edge on the offensive glass — and generated 18 steals, among other statistical head-scratchers. The Hawkeyes also had 23 turnovers to just 13 assists. Sophomore center Monika Czinano had more fouls (five) than points (four).   

Yet, veteran guard play from Kathleen Doyle, Makenzie Meyer and Alexis Sevillian willed the Hawkeyes to a quality upset. That trio had 56 of Iowa’s 66 points en route to a solid shooting day (20-for-50) and numerous free throws. Iowa outscored Maryland by 13 at the line.

Start with the backcourt if the Hawkeyes are to land another blow.

“Our coaches do a great job stressing how important it is (to play well on the road),” Sevillian said. “We have to bring our own energy, and I just think with the chemistry that we have — the maturity and the experience that we do have — we know what it takes to win on the road.

“It’s just another game that we’re all excited for.”

That jubilation will only soar with a victory Thursday. It’s on Iowa to maximize this opportunity.   

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 msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.