The Maryland women’s basketball team’s only two losses this season came against the only two ranked opponents they’d faced. No. 4 South Carolina and No. 1 Connecticut got the better of the Terps in those contests.
On Thursday, about a month and a half after those defeats, Maryland hosted No. 18 Iowa searching for its first top-25 victory.
The No. 13 Terps passed the test with flying colors, using Kaila Charles’ 24-point, 11-rebound outburst to defeat the Hawkeyes, 80-64, and extended their win streak to 12 games.
Charles, coming off a three-point performance on 1-for-11 shooting against Penn State on Sunday, wasn’t concerned with her previous performance as she helped carry the Terps to victory.
“I was hitting shots and they were feeding me the ball,” Charles said. “I could have made more layups and stuff, but it was just not dwelling on it, just playing the next game.”
Last weekend, the Terps (14-2, 3-0 Big Ten) earned a four-point victory against Penn State and mustered just 69 points, 20 fewer than their season average. But against the Hawkeyes (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten), the team quelled any suspicion of offensive regression.
After guard Channise Lewis notched one of her eight assists with an incisive pass under the hoop to guard Blair Watson to give the Terps an 8-6 first-quarter advantage, the squad never trailed again.
Even when the Hawkeyes switched to a 2-3 zone defense and forced the Terps to miss their first eight field goals of the second quarter, the hosts never wavered. While regaining their scoring touch, the Terps limited Iowa by forcing nine first-half turnovers and 23 total giveaways.
“We just locked in on defense,” Lewis said. “Every time they were finding new areas to score, we regrouped in our huddle and we just locked in.”
The Terps continued to lock Iowa down, holding the Hawkeyes scoreless for more than six minutes in the third quarter.
While Maryland’s offense slowed down following a 31-point first quarter, it continued to take care of the ball with just seven turnovers as it found ways to score. Coach Brenda Frese said it was a response from disappointment in the performance at Penn State, and the turnovers had a major influence on the outcome.
“Being able to mix it up defensively and the aggressiveness we had on offense, really sharing the basketball and the unselfish play, when you look at this game, being able to force them into so many turnovers was key,” Frese said.
Watson came into the contest shooting 57 percent from behind the arc in Maryland’s past five contests, but she missed her first four 3-pointers on Thursday. So the Terps relied on Lewis and guards Kristen Confroy and Eleanna Christinaki, who combined to shoot 7-for-16 from deep, to pick up the slack before Watson made three long range shots in the fourth quarter.
Forward Stephanie Jones said the team’s ability to forget about and rally from the close contest at Penn State was a big factor in preparing for the tough test Iowa presented. She added that Frese implored the Terps to “come out ready to play,” and the coach thought they did just that.
“You can tell that we were ready from the tip,” coach Brenda Frese said. “Each game that we’re out, as a young team, learning how to win and, collectively, I thought it was a tremendous effort.”