Iowa and #8 Maryland played a rare weekday noon tilt on Tuesday and there was one thing on the menu: buckets, buckets, and more buckets. Iowa and Maryland combined for 204 points and a whopping 35 combined 3-pointers in a game that was pure bliss if you love seeing offense and only the merest semblance of defense. The Terps buried Iowa from the jump behind a 41-point first quarter that turned the rest of the game into a 90-minute exercise in damage mitigation for the Hawkeyes. In fairness, Iowa did anything but pack it in after that disastrous start -- they actually outscored Maryland over the remaining three quarters (72-70) and didn't pack it in and absorb a 30- or 40-point loss (which looked like it might be on the table after that first quarter).
The story of the game was -- what else? -- shooting. Maryland shot 68% from the floor in the first quarter and made their first seven 3s on their way to shooting a jaw-dropping 89% (8/9) from behind the arc in the first ten minutes. Iowa made seven 3s of their own in the first quarter, but those were the only shots they made in the opening ten minutes; that wasn't enough to keep pace with the Maryland juggernaut. The Terps cooled off slightly over the final three quarters... but not much. They still finished 61% from the floor and 68% from 3-point range. Iowa shot 56% from the field themselves and 52% from 3-point range, which kind of undersells their long-range shooting in the game, as their average dipped thanks to a host of desperation threes in the fourth quarter.
The first half was essentially a shooting contest between Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark and Maryland guard Katie Benzan -- and neither one wanted to blink. Benzan made five 3s in the first quarter on her way to an 8/9 showing and 24 points in the first half. Clark matched her with a dazzling 29-point effort in the first half, including an 8/11 display from deep, along with three rebounds and four assists. McKenna Warnock chipped in 13 points on 5/8 shooting (3/5 from deep) for Iowa, but no one else had more than three points for the Hawkeyes. Benzan led Maryland with 29 in the half, but the Terps also got 15 points from Ashley Owusu and 14 points from Diamond Miller.
Both teams cooled off in the second half -- the Terps were on pace to score almost 140 in the game -- but Maryland would have needed to go ice cold for the Hawkeyes to have a shot at a miraculous comeback. That didn't happen. Iowa shot just 47% from the floor in the third quarter and a miserable 25% (2/8) from 3-point range. Clark, in particular, cooled off after the break and had just three points on 1/4 shooting (1/3 from long range). Down by 20+ after three, the fourth quarter was blowout duty for Iowa, though the Hawkeyes did put together a run to briefly cut the Maryland lead to 14 points with a little under seven minutes to play. The Terps answered with a quick 9-0 run to emphatically put the game out of reach.
Clark has been on fire lately and posted her fifth-straight game with 30+ points, finishing with 34 points on 11/20 shooting, 9/16 from deep. She finished one shy of tying the Iowa women's basketball record for most 3s in a single game (10). This was her ninth game with 30+ points this season, the most by a NCAA Division I freshman since at least 2000. She also had three rebounds and seven assists in the game -- as well as six turnovers. She was joined in double figures by Monika Czinano, who had 17 points on 8/8 shooting, and Warnock, who finished with 16 points on 6/12 shooting (3/6 3FG). Maryland countered with four players in double figures, including three with 24+, led by the sharp-shooting Benzan, who had 29 points on 10/11 shooting (9/10 3FG). Miller had 27 and Owusu had 24, while Chloe Bibby finished with 14 points. Maryland has a terrifyingly deep and balanced offense.
Some of Iowa's persistent flaws were ruthlessly exploited in this game by the Terps, too. Iowa had seven turnovers in the first quarter, which led to 12 Maryland points. For the game, Iowa finished with 16 turnoves, which led to 22 Maryland points. Clark, despite her general offensive brilliance, also had six turnovers in this game, which was costly. Turnovers remain the one area of her game that need the most improvement at this level. The Terps also controlled the glass with 31 rebounds to Iowa's 24, including an 11-7 edge in offensive boards, which contributed to 14-6 advantage in second chance points. And Iowa's defense was, well, not good. The Terps seemed to do whatever they w
anted on offense, whether that was blazing away from deep (often on wide open looks) or slicing through the paint for an easy basket at the rim. With the way Maryland was shooting in this game, it may not have impacted the final result much, but Iowa's lax defending certainly made things even easier for the Terps on offense. It might be too late for Bluder & Co. to fix that defense this season, but shoring up that side of the ball needs to be a priority in the offseason. Caitlin Clark is dazzling and it's fun to watch Iowa torch the nets and score 93 points; it's less fun to see them still lose by 18 points.
NEXT: Iowa returns to action with another tough game on a short turnaround, hosting #12 Michigan on Thursday, February 25. The game is scheduled to tip off at 3:30 PM Central and is scheduled to air on BTN.