Maryland women’s basketball trailed by three as Caitlin Clark brought the ball up the court in the first quarter. The electric Iowa guard handed the ball off to her teammate and looked like she was going to set a screen.
But instead, she darted into the paint. The abrupt move left the Terps’ defender, Shyanne Sellers, chasing as Iowa’s star player earned an easy layup to put the Hawkeyes up five.
The Terps never trimmed their deficit to one possession for the rest of the game as Clark scored 42 points in Maryland’s 14-point road loss Thursday.
“I think we could have been in [Clark’s] space a little more,” Sellers said postgame. “You got to stay attached to that girl’s hip ’cause she’s capable of going off for 40 just like she did.”
[Caitlin Clark drops 42 as No. 6 Iowa beats No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball, 96-82]
After a five-game winning streak where its defense shined, Maryland allowed a season-worst 96 points to the Hawkeyes. The Terps allowed 56 of those points in the opening 20 minutes, including 24 from Clark and 18 from Monika Czinano.
Clark’s 42 points are the most she’s ever scored against Maryland in four matchups. The most recent before Thursday came on Feb. 14, 2022, when she was limited to just 19 points on 7-of-25 shooting.
Despite the attention that Clark drew from the Terps’ defense, she still got herself open.
The guard positioned herself far beyond the arc during the second quarter, causing Maryland’s defense to lighten up its pressure on her — a mistake by the Terps Clark soon exploited.
She received the ball and launched it for a deep three-pointer. Sellers attempted to stop the shot but arrived late and fouled Clark, resulting in a four-point play.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese said the Terps struggled in transition and lost confidence, leading to more breakdowns.
“That just allowed for a lot of mistakes where we lost trust in our defense,” she said.
Even if Frese’s squad stopped Clark from scoring, the guard found her teammates and finished with eight assists.
[Bri McDaniel has made her case to finally crack Maryland women’s basketball’s rotation]
Maryland defenders converged on Clark late in the second quarter but left Czinano open right next to the basket. Clark bounced the ball to Czinano, who finished with a layup to grow Iowa’s lead to 19.
The deafening Hawkeyes’ crowd and the emotions surrounding their game intimidated the Terps, Frese said, affecting their play and leading to the shoddy defense. The Terps tried to switch up their defense in the second half by being more aggressive with a press.
It worked, but only by comparison — Iowa shot 65 percent from the field in the first half and 57 percent in the second half. Maryland allowed 24 first-half field goals, more than its allowed in an entire game six different times this season.
“You can’t spot a team like Iowa the amount of points that we allowed in the first half,” Frese said. “Obviously we wanted to defend Clark and Czinano, and they had monster games, they were a tough matchup for us.”