Iowa women's basketball team falls flat at Maryland, loses chance at Big Ten regular-season title

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register
Maryland guard Faith Masonius (13) drives against Monika Czinano during the  first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in College Park, Md.

Tuesday night produced a familiar and equally unpleasant reality for Iowa women's basketball: Being on the wrong side of a blowout game at Maryland.

Iowa's stakes were high and the task was daunting. Win at No. 7 Maryland and Iowa would keep its Big Ten championship hopes alive. But the Hawkeyes would have to do it at a venue where Iowa has never won (0-5 entering Tuesday since Maryland joined the Big Ten).

A season-best shooting night from the Terrapins and an offensive anomaly by the Hawkeyes resulted in a 96-68 loss, which shut the door on a chance at back-to-back regular-season titles.

Maryland entered Tuesday night shooting 35% from the 3-point line, but shot 54% from long range with a season-high 14 threes. Meanwhile it was by far the worst offensive showing for Iowa this season. The nation's leader in points (88.3 per game) scored a season-low on Tuesday night.

"We did not shoot the ball well," coach Lisa Bluder said. "We have kids that can normally put it ... down better than what we did tonight."

Iowa dropped to 22-6 overall and 14-3 in Big Ten play and now trails first-place and No. 2-ranked Indiana by two games with one more to play. The Hawkeyes play host to the Hoosiers on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder reacts during the team's NCAA college basketball game against Maryland on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in College Park, Md.

A look at the second quarter that blew the game open for Maryland

Avoiding a slow start was key for the Hawkeyes on the road, and to some degree they did that with a 20-19 lead after the first quarter. But the cracks showed early for Iowa, with seven first-quarter turnovers and six offensive rebounds by Maryland that prevented a larger lead.

What followed was the worst quarter of the season for the Hawkeyes.

"I thought the first quarter we did an OK job," Bluder said. "The second quarter is what really defined this game, in my opinion. (We) turned the ball over too many times. We gave up too many (offensive rebounds) in that second quarter, and everything that they put up went in tonight."

Maryland opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 28-22 lead just before the under-8 minute media timeout. The break did little to help Iowa as the Terrapins exploded for their best shooting performance of the season. Without its best player, Diamond Miller, who sat the majority of the quarter with foul trouble, Maryland shot a blistering 7-of-11 from the 3-point line in the second period.

The biggest stars for Maryland were bench players Lavender Briggs (19 points) and Brinae Alexander (24 points) who filled in Miller's shoes. For the game, the Terrapins had six players score at least eight points.

Meanwhile, Iowa's offense was out of sorts. Bluder was heard on the TV broadcast scolding her team about "not playing their brand of offense." But there was little Iowa could do against Maryland's defensive pressure.

"I think Maryland did a really good job being physical and denying passing lanes," Bluder said. "And they just did a really good job. I think that we were a little sloppy, but I think it was because of Maryland's great defense."

Maryland guard Brinae Alexander (5) hits a 3-pointer over Iowa's Gabbie Marshall during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in College Park, Md.

Iowa's duo of Clark and Czinano had season-low performances

The Terrapins played like a team with revenge on its mind after losing 96-82 on Feb. 2 in Iowa City, and it was directed at Iowa star duo Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano, who combined for 70 points in the previous meeting. But that wasn't the case on Tuesday as Maryland took both players out of their games. Clark was held to 18 points, her second-lowest scoring output this season while Czinano scored four points on just five attempts.

"They denied the heck out of (Clark), face guarded her the whole time," Bluder said. "That was great. I mean, that was really the best (defense on Clark) we've seen all year.. They had somebody in front of (Czinano) and behind her the whole time, so they basically had two people around her and did a great job with it."

Intense on-ball pressure sped up Iowa's offense and forced quick shots and 24 turnovers. Rushing on offense meant that Iowa center Monika Czinano was virtually a non-factor; her first basket didn't come until the second quarter. The Terrapins threw several different looks at Clark but mainly a box-and-1 that didn't allow for any offensive flow.

Without it's main stars contributing at their normal level, Iowa's supporting cast couldn't provide the needed spark. Gabbie Marshall shot 5-10 from the 3-point line but McKenna Warnock and Kate Martin were a combined 1-11 from deep. Reserve Sydney Affolter was a pleasant surprise with a season-best game of 14 points and eight rebounds, but freshman Hannah Stuelke was limited to just two points.

Maryland guard Shyanne Sellers (0) against Iowa's Gabbie Marshall (24) and Monika Czinano (25) during first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in College Park, Md.

Where do the Hawkeyes go from here?

The Big Ten regular-season title is out of the picture but Iowa's game on Sunday still holds significance. The Hawkeyes need to win in order to lock up the No. 2 seed as Maryland leaves Tuesday night with the same conference record as Iowa (14-3).

Tuesday night's loss will sting. Iowa's big-picture goals remain in focus, but one big goal − another Big Ten regular-season title − is out of the picture.