Maryland women’s basketball makes it look easy against Iowa


It shouldn’t look that easy. When the nation’s No. 6 team comes to town for a key conference match, it shouldn’t seem like they forgot the scouting report somewhere en route between Iowa City and College Park. The game’s most famous shooter shouldn’t be shut down so effectively that she had to hear chants of “Air Ball!” and later “Overrated!” And the drama should focus on how each coach handles rotation in a hard-fought fourth quarter, not which coach would be the first to mercifully pull his starters off the floor in the closing minutes.

The Maryland Terrapins, the No. 7 team in women’s baskets, made it seem like a game against Iowa and star guard Caitlin Clark on a Tuesday night was just elevated practice. Of course, the Hawkeyes didn’t actually lose the game plan at a rest stop. And Clark, No. 3 in the country, remains a top contender for the Player of the Year award. She’s still a worthy reason why fans from Iowa, Olney and everywhere in between turned up at the Xfinity Center to see her in person, despite her muted performance. But when Maryland dismantled Iowa, 96-68 the terps made it look all too easy.

If you’re counting, that would be six wins against ranked opponents and four wins against top 10 teams. And no, Maryland students didn’t rush into court after the final horn like they did last week when the men of Terps Purdue No. 3 crashed. They didn’t have to. No one rushes into court after a laugh. Maryland (23-5, 14-3 Big Ten) built those expectations so this conference, one of the most challenging in the country, looks like a no-brainer.

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“A lot of people pretty much underestimated us as a team all year,” senior guard Brinae Alexander said. “But yeah, we’re just ready to play those next few games” in the conference tournament.

No. 7 Maryland dominates No. 6 Iowa en route to a raucous 96-68 win

Though senior Diamond Miller spent most of the first half on the touchlines and played more as a cheerleader than the team’s top scorer, Maryland thrived behind a flurry of three-pointers and a faltering defense. Miller played eight minutes in the first half when Clark barely sat but missed 5 of 8 shots. In that gap, Alexander made her best Clark impression by hitting six threes.

Over the past month, Alexander, a transfer from Vanderbilt, has had a bit of a crisis. On Tuesday, she splashed threes everywhere she found herself open on the floor — even a substitution three, a heat check even the voices in Coach Brenda Frese’s head couldn’t deny.

“It doesn’t make sense, does it?” Frese said of her team’s 7-for-13 shooting from deep in the second quarter. “Two games ago we were 0 for [17] from the three-point line. There’s always this annoying voice in the back of my head: ‘How much longer are we going to go through this?’ ”

The answer would be all game. Maryland finished 14 to 26 (53.8 percent), led by a two-woman bank mob in Alexander and Lavender Briggs. The duo combined for nine marks from beyond the arc and the terps’ 43 bank points.

On the defensive end, the Terps often stationed a bigger defender like Briggs or Shyanne Sellers on top of Clark, who had the misfortune to launch a three-pointer wide of the rim in the first quarter and then heard about it all night. In the half-court, Maryland filled Clark in a mixture of Box and One – that’s how Iowa coach Lisa Bluder described it. Whatever the defense, it just worked.

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“You denied her everything. They guarded her the whole time,” Bluder said, calling it the best her team has played against all season.

As for the crucial second quarter, when Iowa missed all 10 of his three-point attempts, Bluder appropriately distributed credit.

“We were a little sloppy,” she said, “but I think it was because of Maryland’s great defense.”

With Clark scoring 18 points for a walker in 5-for-13 shooting, including 4-for-10 from the three-point arc, Iowa didn’t stand a chance.

The arena didn’t sell out, but this was an amazing Xfinity Center. They knew the crowd would be dying for a win in Maryland, because three long lines of fans waited outside the metal detectors behind Gate A about 90 minutes before kickoff. They knew they’d be loud — and generous — if they did supported a soprano who sang the national anthem but forgot the lyrics. Although Over the ramparts we watched did they stream so gallantly? turned into an embarrassed hum, the crowd cheered anyway at the end.

And between the regulars in red and the students hanging out in their own department, there were also younger faces in the crowd, waiting to be inspired by their heroes in basketball shorts. The Maguire family – Kevin, Jennifer and daughters Emily and Kaitlyn, both in black and gold No. 22 jerseys bought on Amazon – traveled from Olney to the 8pm tip.

“It wouldn’t have mattered if it was midnight. We came to this game to see Iowa. Any time any Iowa sport comes to Maryland, I try to get tickets,” said Kevin, an Iowa graduate student. “But I just think Caitlin Clark is just a household name now. There’s a spark and it’s cool to see all the little kids watching her play. She’s a great player and the interest in basketball I like to see. Women’s football is becoming more and more popular.”

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That night, the Maguires didn’t see their favorite player having a special night, but rather a different kind of magic — the Terps made another Big Ten opponent disappear in midair.

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