For the first time since Maryland joined the Big Ten five seasons ago, the Iowa women's basketball team managed to secure a victory over the Terrapins, 86-73, behind a huge second-half surge. Of course, this win meant more than just getting a first Big Ten win over Maryland in seven tries -- it was also critical in the Big Ten title race. Iowa entered the game at 11-3, a game behind Maryland at 12-2. After this result, the Hawkeyes and Terps are tied at 12-3 atop the Big Ten standings, but Iowa has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Maryland (which matters for determining the #1 seed at the Big Ten Tournament, but not for determining the Big Ten regular season champion). Iowa still has work to do in the Big Ten title race, but a win today was essential if they wanted to have any hope of claiming a Big Ten title this year -- and they got it.
For most of the game, this was a back-and-forth affair with both teams trading the lead (17 total lead changes) and unable to establish a commanding lead. In fact, the game was dead even at halftime, tied 33-all. The second half was (almost) all Iowa, though. Iowa used a commanding third quarter to take a 58-50 lead into the third quarter. Maryland answered quickly with an 11-2 run to start the fourth, though, and took a 61-60 lead early in the quarter. That was their last lead of the game, though. Makenzie Meyer scored a layup to put Iowa up 62-61 and Megan Gustafson added a bucket of her own a few seconds later to make it 64-61. All told, Iowa outscored Maryland 26-12 in the final seven minutes of the game.
DOWN GOES NO. 7 MARYLAND!! pic.twitter.com/iVYZP4LhzQ
— Iowa Women's BBall (@IowaWBB) February 17, 2019
In the first half, Iowa was struggling in a few areas: offensive rebounding and second chance points, turnovers, and three-point shooting. In the first half, Maryland had nine second chance points off nine offensive rebounds (versus four second chance points on five offensive rebounds for Iowa); in the second half Maryland had seven second chance points off nine more offensive rebounds (versus six second chance points on eight offensive rebounds), but Iowa won the overall rebound battle, 41 to 37. Iowa had nine turnovers that led to 10 Maryland points in the first half, but Iowa cut that to four turnovers and just five Maryland points in the second half. (Meanwhile, Iowa got 10 points off Maryland turnovers in the second half.) Iowa also played Maryland to basically a draw in three-point shooting in the second half. Maryland made 3/14 from behind the arc in the second half, while Iowa was 2/6 from deep. Overall, Iowa benefited from some ice-cold shooting from deep from Maryland (7/23, 30%) for the game.
One other key second half adjustment for Iowa? Getting to the free throw line. Iowa was 4/4 at the line in the first half, but 23/25 at the line in the second half. A few of those came at the end of the game as Maryland was trying to come back, but many of them were simply the result of Iowa making a concerted effort to drive the lane and attack the bucket. That resulted in a lot of foul calls from the officials, and Iowa duly took advantage of all those trips to the charity stripe by draining shot after shot.
Of course the biggest second half adjustment for Iowa? Getting Megan Gustafson on track. Gustafson posted a double double in just the second half. She started the game quietly, scoring just two points in the first quarter (with that one bucket coming at the buzzer) and having seven points (on 2/7 shooting) and four rebounds at halftime. Maryland was swarming her on defense with double and triple-teams, which made it difficult for Iowa to get the ball to her in the post (and resulted in a few turnovers on some of their attempts to feed her down low). Iowa found better angles to get the ball to Gustafson in the second half, but mainly Gustafson just did what great players do: she took over. She had 24 points and 13 rebounds in just the second half. She was 8/11 from the floor in the second half, converting in and around the basket again and again. For the game, she ended with 31 points and 17 rebounds. That was her ninth 30+ point game of the year (best in the NCAA) and her 79th career double double (extending her own Big Ten record). In the biggest part of Iowa's biggest game of the year, she was brilliant. She is, in a word, incredible.
She had help today, though. Hannah Stewart was phenomenal in the first half, finishing with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists before the break; with Gustafson being quiet in that half, Stewart really stepped up. She finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Tania Davis was also brilliant, scoring 13 points on 5/8 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. Kathleen Doyle was Iowa's fourth double-digit scorer, posting 12 points to go with a team-high five assists, four rebounds, and three steals (which helped offset the five turnovers and fouls she had). Makenzie Meyer had eight points and four assists, but iced four free throws late in the game to seal the victory for Iowa. And I'd be remiss if I didn't shout out Alexis Sevillain, who had seven points on 2/5 shooting, including a clutch three-pointer that gave Iowa a 75-69 lead with 2:34 to play. That was a tight spot in the game and Sevillain's three gave Iowa some much-needed breathing room. All that was left was the celebrations.
megan gustafson reax >>>>> pic.twitter.com/X3QRLGbqt0
— Natalie Weiner (@natalieweiner) February 17, 2019
DOWN GOES MARYLAND!
For the first time since 1992, @IowaWBB gets the win over Maryland!
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) February 17, 2019
What. A. Win. This was a great team performance in Iowa's biggest game of the season (if not several seasons), highlighted by a superstar performance from Iowa's resident superstar, Megan Gustafson. She is special and this team is special. What a joy to watch.
Iowa's road to a Big Ten title isn't over, of course. They have two road games this week (at Indiana on Thursday, 7 PM CT, BTN, and at Nebraska next Monday, 7:30 PM CT, BTN), before wrapping up with a home game against Northwestern (Sunday, March 3, 3 PM CT, BTN). Iowa doesn't have much margin of error in the Big Ten title race -- they can't assume Maryland will lose any of their remaining three games -- so they need to keep winning. But they needed to win today to have any hope of those Big Ten title dreams becoming a reality. Winner winner, Big Ten leaders.
NEXT: Iowa faces Indiana (17-9 overall, 6-8 Big Ten) on Thursday (7 PM CT, BTN).