But on Thursday, when the No. 17 Terps faced Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, they again slumped into an early hole, trailing by as many as 14 points, and couldn’t overcome a poor shooting night in a 66-61 defeat.
The Terps rallied back from their deficit, even taking a third-quarter lead with a 14-2 run, but they couldn’t hold on. During a tight fourth quarter, with the game tied and just over three minutes to go, Iowa’s Alexis Sevillian scored five straight points and Maryland couldn’t recover.
“I can’t be disappointed in our fight,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “I didn’t think we played very well and had a chance to win the game. We never quit fighting, especially when you talk about that third quarter, what we were able to do to turn that around.”
Maryland senior guard Kaila Charles, the Big Ten preseason player of the year, had 23 points and 18 rebounds. Frese said Charles “put the team on her back like the all-American she is and tried to do everything she could for us.”
Shakira Austin also notched a double-double (11 points, 13 rebounds), but that couldn’t overcome the team’s 31 percent shooting, including just 4 for 25 from beyond the arc. The shooting woes were nearly as bad as the season-low 30.5 percent against Northwestern on New Year’s Eve.
A common theme for the Terps (11-4, 2-2 Big Ten) in losses is poor shooting — they also struggled in defeats to South Carolina (31.4 percent) and at N.C. State (33.8 percent). Against Iowa, the Terps made only 5 of 13 free throws. Maryland had to lean on its defense.
The road has not treated this Maryland team well. Three of the Terps’ four losses have come away from College Park, and this group is winless away from home in conference play, even though the Terps positioned themselves for a comeback bid this time.
The Terps outrebounded Iowa, 59-35, while forcing 23 turnovers, but they missed six shots in the final three minutes when the game’s outcome was still in the balance.
Maryland has battled through an inconsistent offense for much of the season, but defense continues to be a calling card. In their previous outing, the Terps beat Ohio State, 72-62, holding the Buckeyes to just 20 points in the second half while forcing 15 turnovers. The defense helped them claw back Thursday, but ultimately their offense did them in against the Hawkeyes (12-3, 3-1).
Maryland played Iowa twice last season — once on the road and then in the Big Ten championship game — and lost both games. A year ago, the Hawkeyes had Megan Gustafson, the standout senior and eventual national player of the year, and without her on the floor this time, Iowa still had the dependable players it needed. Kathleen Doyle scored 21 points, and Makenzie Meyer added 20 for the Hawkeyes.
Ashley Owusu, the Terps’ freshman point guard who’s averaging more than 11 points, did not start for the first time this season. Maryland instead used a lineup with more size and experience. Owusu was replaced by senior forward Stephanie Jones, while Taylor Mikesell slid over to the point guard spot. Owusu, who only scored four points against Iowa, subbed in for Jones less than three minutes into the game. Maryland started three seniors and two sophomores, with Frese citing “the experience factor” as what guided her decision.
The Terps shot just 9 for 26 in the first quarter, starting a game-long trend of consistently securing offensive rebounds yet being unable to capitalize. The Hawkeyes were 7 for 9 during the first 10 minutes. Overall, Maryland enjoyed a 38-11 advantage on the offensive glass, leading to 34 more shots from the field.
“I just think we weren’t committed as a whole on the court,” Charles said of the early issues. “We weren’t really talking as much, so we had little slip-ups, and they capitalized on it, and that’s kind of what led to the fast start for them.”
The Terps’ defense settled in during the second quarter, forcing Iowa into a six-minute stretch without a field goal to close the half. Iowa had made its first six attempts from behind the arc but finished the game shooting only 8 for 22 from deep.
That improvement positioned the Terps well for the climb back after halftime, but even after they pulled ahead, the offensive firepower was lacking.
“We can’t dig a hole and then try to fight out of it,” Charles said. “We’ve got to punch first.”