If the league-leading clash between #10 Maryland and #17 Iowa had been a prize fight, the ref would have stopped it in the second round. This was an ugly loss for Iowa in a game that started bad and only got worse from there. Maryland led 25-14 after one and grew that lead to 48-23 at halftime. The lead ballooned to 36 (74-38) after three quarters, which turned the fourth quarter into a joyless slog to the finish.
Maryland had revenge on the mind after losing three in a row to Iowa, including a deeply bizarre game in Iowa City earlier this season. Iowa won 66-61 at home a month ago, despite shooting just 40% from the field, turning the ball over 23 times, and allowing the Terrapins to shoot a whopping 34 more shots than Iowa. How? Well, Maryland also had 22 turnovers and Iowa did a lot of damage at the free throw line (18/22)... but mainly they won because Maryland had an outrageously, inexplicably, preposterously bad night putting the ball in the basket. They were 26/84 (31%) from the field, 4/25 from 3-point range (16%), and even 5/13 (38.5%) from the free throw line.
Why do I bring that up? Because tonight's game is what happens when Maryland doesn't have an outrageously, inexplicably, preposterously bad night putting the ball in the basket. In this game, the Terps still struggled a little at the free throw line (10/18, 55.6%) and from beyond the arc (5/16, 31.3%)... but who cares when you shoot 34/54 (63%) on 2-point field goals. Turns out making buckets is a good thing!
Meanwhile, Iowa somehow turned the ball over even more in the rematch, upping their turnover total from 23 to a staggering 27 in this game. Those 27 giveaways turned into 37 Maryland points. Maryland's defense absolutely swallowed up Iowa's guards and forced them into a steady stream of mistakes; Makenzie Meyer had 7 turnovers, Alexis Sevillian and 4, and Kathleen Doyle and Kate Martin had 3 apiece. Iowa's interior didn't have a fun night, either; they didn't turn the ball over as often as the guards, but Maryland bullied the hell out of Iowa in the paint and finished with a lopsided 58-26 edge in points in the paint.
The only bright spot for Iowa offensively was Monika Czinano, who had a team-high 15 points on 7/7 shooting as well as 7 rebounds. Kathleen Doyle was the only other Iowa player to finish in double figures, with 10 points on 4/16 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
This was a game to utterly forget for Iowa. Maryland wanted revenge -- and they got it, and then some. The Terps blitzed Iowa from the opening minutes and kept the pedal down for the next three quarters. Iowa couldn't hold onto the ball and when they did, they couldn't make shots. That's a nightmare combination and the result was a nightmare performance.
The loss drops Iowa out of having at least a share of the Big Ten lead for the first time in about a month. In fact, Iowa's now in third place in the Big Ten standings:
1) 12-2 --- Maryland
2) 11-2 0.5 Northwestern
3) 11-3 1.0 Iowa
4) 10-4 2.0 Indiana
After winning nine in a row, Iowa has now gone 2-2 in their last four games. The dream of a regular season Big Ten title -- even a shared title -- is starting to fade, although there's still plenty to play for, like a Top 4 seed (and the chance to host up to two home games) in the NCAA Tournament. This was a bad loss, but as long as it doesn't linger, it doesn't have to be a disastrous setback for the Hawkeyes.
For one thing, Iowa's schedule lightens up considerably after this game. This contest wrapped up a stretch of four road games in five games; they went 3-2 overall in that stretch and 2-2 in the four road games. Now they head home for three straight home games -- against three of the four worst teams in the conference (Wisconsin, Penn State, and Minnesota). The good news is those should be very winnable games. The bad news is Iowa won't get much acclaim for winning them. Wins might not help Iowa much, but losses in those games would be far more damaging than this defeat tonight. So flush this game away, buckle down, and get back on the winning track next time out, Hawkeyes.
NEXT: Iowa returns home to face Wisconsin (11-14, 3-11 Big Ten) in the first of those aforementioned three straight home games on Sunday, February 16 at 2 PM (BTN+).