Historical precedent was defied as the No. 6 Iowa Hawkeyes conquered their Big Ten rival, the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins, at home for their seventh consecutive win as the conclusion of the regular season rapidly approaches and conference play remains competitive. Since joining the Big Ten, the Terps had held the advantage and many anticipated that this game would be competitive and down to the wire.
From the start, the Hawkeyes were off to the races. They crashed the boards on defense, got back in transition smoothly, and jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead within the first four minutes of the first quarter. All seven of those points were scored by Caitlin Clark.
Given the stakes of this game, the Hawkeyes came out wanting something versus protecting something.
Coach Lisa Bluder quickly went to her bench and brought in major contributors Hannah Stuelke and Molly Davis to provide assistance. Davis came in to provide relief for McKenna Warnock who was taking as much time as she could to adjust in her first game back from a rib injury.
The Terp defense immediately went into double-teaming Clark as much as it could to neutralize her obvious offensive prowess and possibly force some turnovers. At first, Maryland’s strategy wasn’t working even as it was making some inroads with a couple baskets here and there.
With 4:11 left in the first, the Hawkeyes led 13-8.
Iowa continued to surge on and at the 3:19 mark Stuelke got the crowd into a state of unbridled exuberance as she concluded a 6-0 run with an open fast-break layup off a feed from Clark to put the Hawkeyes up by double digits at 19-8.
Simply put, the Hawkeyes were playing some tremendous basketball against a high-caliber opponent that had given them grief in the past. As the quarter started to come to a close, they were in total command and playing with an abundance of energy. Furthermore, Maryland’s top player, Diamond Miller, was already in a precarious position with two fouls.
The Hawkeyes led 29-18 at the end of the first. Clark had 11 points, three rebounds, and two assists. Monika Czinano had six points and two rebounds.
The question going into the second quarter was whether Iowa would stay hot or would significantly cool down, thereby allowing the Terps to come back.
At the 8:46 mark of the second, Clark made sure that wouldn’t be the case as she was able to hit her trademark 3-pointer from the logo and draw the fall. She followed through with the extra point, increasing the Iowa lead to 35-22.
The Hawkeyes’ fierce offense and tenacious defense continued to do wonders and render the Terps into a state of perpetual helplessness. Whenever the Terps would miss a shot or turn the ball over, their facial expressions said it all: frustration, disappointment and astonishment.
At the 6:57 mark of the second, Iowa was on an 11-6 run and led 40-24. Clark already had 18 points by this point and the team was shooting 65.2 percent (13-of-25) from the field.
Clark’s role as the playmaker was on full display as she was able to utilize her superb vision of the court to find openings; she was racking up the assists.
The Hawkeyes were also looking inside to Czinano, as she was able to score at will in the paint.
With just under two minutes to play in the first half, the Hawkeyes were playing so well that they were poised to go up by as many as 20 points. Everyone waited on pins and needles to see who would be the one to put them over that threshold.
In the final seconds of the half, the crowd was on their feet and although they didn’t get to a 20-point lead, when all was said and done they were knocking on the door. Going into the locker room, the Hawkeyes led 56-38. Clark and Czinano had combined for 42 points.
It was Czinano who scored the first basket of the third, which put the Hawkeyes up 58-38. However, a cool front was beginning to set in and midway through the frame the Terps were making a significant comeback with some good shooting, attacking the glass and maneuvering without the ball to create openings. The air seemed to have gone out of the Hawkeyes; it seemed that they had completely exhausted themselves.
At the 5:07 mark of the third, Miller was able to reach 16 points with a basket plus a free throw that capped off a 14-4 run, which cut Iowa’s lead to 62-52.
Suddenly, the Hawkeyes were in some serious trouble with plenty of basketball left to play. At the 4:28 mark, Clark took it to the hole to lay it in off the glass while Miller picked up her third foul. Then, at the 3:58 mark, Stuelke, a fan favorite, muscled her way into the paint and laid it in to put the Hawkeyes up 66-52 and Miller in an even more of a difficult position with four fouls.
It took had taken some time, but the Hawkeyes had come back alive in the final stages of the third.
At the 2:03 mark of the frame, Clark did it again from 3-point land to put the Hawkeyes up 71-57 and did her version of the Jordan Shrug as she jogged her way back down the court. Before you knew it, the black and yellow were back. Clark later found Stuelke at the other end for an easy layup and a 73-57 lead.
With 30 seconds remaining before the fourth, Maryland’s senior guard Abby Meyers hit a three to cut the Hawkeyes’ lead to 14 at 74-60, which put the game back in contention going into the final quarter.
The dynamic of the third quarter was still in effect early in the fourth, as Iowa largely cooled off and the Terps were making substantial strides. Also, the intensity was starting to pick up as Clark was called for an intentional foul on Miller.
Then, when Clark was at the foul line, some words were exchanged between her and Maryland sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers over what Sellers perceived to be a bad call that brought Clark to the line. But Sellers had actually fouled Stuelke, who went to the line and made 1-of-2.
At the midway point of the fourth, the Hawkeyes’ lead was still hovering around 14 points as they were forced into a position where they had to work for every basket. Maryland was looking more refreshed and rejuvenated than they had all game.
Then, with 4:17 to play, Clark picked up her third foul. She attempted to draw a charge as Sellers used the scoop shot to lay it. It turned into a 3-point play for Sellers and decreased Iowa’s lead to 10 at 85-75.
However, at the 2:23 mark, Davis hit a big 3-pointer for her first basket of the game, putting the Hawkeyes back up by 14 at 90-76. It got the crowd at Carver back up on their feet.
The last few moments were defined entirely by the Hawkeyes needing to protect the ball and get to the foul line after the inevitable force foul by Maryland.
When the final buzzer went off, Iowa came away with a big victory, 96-82.
Clark finished with 42 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Czinano had 28 points, six rebounds and one assist. Stuelke had 13 points.
During the postgame press conference, Clark said she understood Maryland was going to come back and that the Hawkeyes had to keep themselves together.
“We never got frazzled when they went on a run,” she said. “When you are able to weather the storm of a really good team, I think that shows the maturity of the group that we have so I’m proud of us for that.”
Iowa (18-4, 10-1 Big Ten) will hit the road to take on Penn State (13-10, 4-8 Big Ten) on Sunday at 11 a.m. CST.