After handing Penn State a comprehensive defeat Monday, No. 8 Maryland suffered a similar fate to the Nittany Lions against No. 6 Iowa Thursday evening in Iowa City, Iowa.
The Terps struggled to contain the Hawkeyes’ two-headed scoring monster of Caitlin Clark and Monika Czinano, who combined for 70 points, while also having one of their worst shooting quarters of the season en route to a 96-82 loss.
After taking a 2-0 lead to start the affair, Iowa scored seven unanswered points and never relinquished its lead. As the Hawkeyes saw shot after shot fall, Maryland (18-5, 9-3 Big Ten) went almost three minutes without a basket, missing its next six shots.
“They were on fire in the first half, which was difficult for us in every regard,” coach Brenda Frese said. “You saw us trying to switch different things defensively and trying to get into some kind of rhythm. Transition, they crushed us in every area there, so that was disappointing.”
The Terps struggled as a team, going 7-for-24 from the field in the first, but no player had a more difficult start to the night than Abby Meyers, who missed her first eight shot attempts. Meyers’ first basket came at 6:34 of the second quarter from the right arc and was the team’s first three-pointer.
The team finished the outing going a season-low 2-for-18 from deep.
On the other end, Clark logged 24 points, six rebounds and five assists in the first half, while Czinano notched 18. The two combined for 18-of-22 shooting in the opening 20 minutes and accounted for 75 percent of Iowa’s (18-4, 10-1) first-half points, which helped the Hawkeyes to an 18-point advantage at the break.
“I think we could have been in her space a little bit more,” Shyanne Sellers said of Clark. “She draws a lot of attention, so there was a lot of miscommunication on defense, I felt like. You gotta stay attached to that girl’s hip because she’s capable of going off for 40, just like she did.”
Clark finished with 42 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, her second-most points in a game this season and the fourth time she’s notched 40 or more against a ranked opponent. It was also the sixth time the electric guard has hit the 30-point mark this year.
“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player,” Frese said of Clark. “She’s a pleasure to watch play unless you’re scouting her and going against her.”
Meanwhile, Czinano had 28 points and six rebounds to help push Iowa to its seventh consecutive win. The Hawkeyes also had their second-best game assist-wise as a team, notching 27 helpers, three shy of their season-high.
Maryland twice threatened a comeback. First, with a 7-0 run in the third to cut the lead to 10, and second with 4:17 to play in the final frame when Sellers had a three-point play after getting fouled on a made layup to cut the Terps’ deficit to 10 again.
But as time wound down, Iowa maintained its lead and picked up a vital conference win. The Hawkeyes now sit one-and-a-half games clear of the Terps in league standings. What’s more, No. 18 Michigan picked up a win over Illinois to close its gap in the Big Ten standings.
It was a disappointing loss for a Maryland team that had been 8-1 away from home and earned victories against four ranked opponents earlier in the season, defeating Baylor, Notre Dame, UConn and Michigan.
Thursday’s loss wasn’t the homecoming Frese had in mind; she grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which lies about 26 miles from Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa ended a five-game Maryland win streak and a four-match winless stretch against the Terps.
Diamond Miller, who battled foul trouble after picking up her fourth personal at 3:58 in the third, led all Maryland scorers with 27 points — 17 of which came in the second half — while Sellers added a career-high 26 and Meyers had 15.
“Just being aggressive going downhill,” Sellers said of her offensive approach. “Their guards are a little bit undersized, so I knew I had the height advantage. Just trying to attack them and be aggressive.”
The trio combined for 51 of the Terps’ 71 shot attempts and 68 of their 82 points Thursday. Graduate guard Elisa Pinzan also reached 1,000 career points early in the third with a layup.
Moving forward, Maryland hosts No. 10 Ohio State Sunday before matches against Northwestern, formerly-ranked Illinois and Michigan State. The Terps end the regular season with a home rematch against Iowa and an away tilt with the Buckeyes.
“This conference isn’t for the weak when you’re looking at all the great talent this year,” Frese said. “That’s the beauty of it is we’re not going to have long to feel sorry for ourselves.”