#13 Maryland 81, #22 Iowa 69: Same Old Story

By BraydonRoberts5 on February 14, 2022 at 11:28 pm
Iowa suffered yet another ranked defeat due to poor defensive play early in the game

Thus far in Iowa’s two seasons with Caitlin Clark, games against ranked opponents have mostly followed a similar recipe—the team plays little defense and is forced to shoot its way to a win. More often than not, even great offense performances aren’t enough to overcome the poor defense.

Tonight’s game against Maryland offered Iowa yet another chance at a ranked win. But it also offered Iowa a chance to change the story against Maryland. Last year, the Terps scored over 100 points against Iowa twice. But this year, Maryland’s offense hasn’t been quite as potent. And it was playing this game without star point guard Ashley Owusu. Could Iowa’s defense finally do enough to come away with a much-needed victory over a ranked team?

Iowa started the game well on both ends of the court, forcing a few turnovers, getting good shots, and jumping out to a 9-2 lead. Maryland’s defense then tightened up, and the offense got going. The Terps ended the quarter on a 22-10 run to take a 24-19 lead to the second quarter. Monika Czinano had 8 points in the quarter, but Clark had several shots barely miss and Iowa went just 1/6 from three-point range.

In the early second quarter, Maryland’s momentum continued. The Terps are longer and more athletic than Iowa, and used those advantages to dominate the paint offensively and keep Iowa out of the paint on defense. Czinano and Kate Martin also got into foul trouble, limiting Iowa’s already-struggling offense. Maryland’s lead got as high as 17 at 48-31 before Clark hit a shot at the end of the half to make it 48-33 at halftime.

Maryland kept on rolling early in the third quarter, and soon led by 20 at 57-37. And then, just when the Hawkeyes looked dead in the water, they finally started to play some defense . The Hawks finally went on an extended run of their own and pulled within nine points. Maryland made a pair of shots to end the quarter, but a Clark circus three at the buzzer cut Maryland’s lead to 66-55 heading to the fourth quarter.

 Iowa’s momentum continued to the early fourth quarter, and the Hawks cut Maryland’s lead to 66-61. Carver was rocking, and Iowa seemed on the brink of completely changing the game. But the Hawks missed on chances to cut the lead further, and Maryland finally hit some shots again. The Terps extended their lead back to 13 with three minutes to play, and the game was effectively over. Iowa kept up its effort, but couldn’t put together enough offense to come back and lost 81-69.  

Clark led Iowa with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. But those numbers are all solidly below her season averages, and she also had 10 turnovers and shot just 7/25 from the floor. It was one of the worst games of her season. Czinano had 16 points, but struggled with foul trouble most of the game, and wasn’t a major threat after the first quarter. Kate Martin had 10 points, but also struggled with fouls and turnovers. The offense as a whole didn’t shoot or pass well. A box score for the game is here.

Same Old Story

Iowa deserves credit for not giving up while down 20. It also deserves credit for its defensive effort from the middle of the third quarter onward.

But why does it take a 20-point deficit for this team to try defensively? In the late third and fourth quarter you could see Iowa’s defensive intensity. Players flew around on the defensive end trying to get to their player as fast as possible. They tried to jump passing lanes. They sold out to get rebounds, even if they didn’t grab all that many of them.

If the Hawkeyes played with that defensive intensity in the first two and a half quarters, they might well have won this game. They might well have beaten Michigan last week. They might have won several other games this season, too.

The simple truth is that if Iowa doesn’t commit to actually playing defense, they're going to keep losing these big games against good teams. If they don't commit to defense, then this team has likely already reached its ceiling in advancing to last year’s Sweet 16.

What will it take to get that defensive commitment? I have no idea. So far the only answer has been huge deficits, and that’s not going to cut it.

Trouble in the Post

Monika Czinano deserves credit for being one of the best offensive centers in basketball. But while she is great on the offensive end, she gives plenty away on defense. Czinano is a well-below average rebounding post. She isn’t any better defensively, and doesn’t protect the rim at all.

Tonight’s results helped show those deficiencies. Freshman Addison O’Grady has plenty of potential, but is still young, and is far from a great rebounder or defender. But in 13 minutes tonight, she grabbed six rebounds and had one block.

How about Czinano? Well, in 27 minutes, she had five rebounds and zero blocks. Czinano recorded fewer blocks and rebounds than a freshman who played less than half her minutes. Czinano’s issues on the defensive end are a big part of Iowa’s poor defense, but I have no idea how the team fixes that at this point.

Next Up

Iowa returns to action this Saturday, February 19 at 3 PM CT on the road at #5 Indiana. The game will be streamed on BTN Plus. The game was originally scheduled for Sunday, February 20, but was moved up a day so that Iowa and Indiana could also play a make-up game in Iowa City on Monday, February 21. 

The Hoosiers are 18-4 on the season, and 10-2 in the Big Ten. They generally looked like the conference favorite for most of the season, before losing star center Mackenzie Holmes to an injury. Soon after, Indiana had Covid issues, leading to the postponement of several games, including Indiana’s original game at Iowa on January 23. Holmes has warmed up in a game recently, so it’s possible—but perhaps not likely—that she plays in some capacity against Iowa.  

Either way, this game is winnable, even if it’s on the road at the #5 team. Nebraska just beat Indiana 72-55 in Lincoln earlier tonight.

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