IOWA CITY – One game won’t decide the Big Ten women’s basketball race, but 17th-ranked Iowa’s 5 p.m. game today at 10th-ranked Maryland will put the winner in a good position with four games remaining in the regular season.
The Hawkeyes and Terrapins join 19th-ranked Northwestern with two losses in conference play, and with a 2-0 record against those two teams Iowa is in a position to give itself an edge for the top seed in the Big Ten tourney.
"At the start of the season, not many people expected us to be in this position, but the chemistry on this team is good and here we are, ready to play in a game of this magnitude," Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle said.
The Hawkeyes have helped themselves by winning five of the seven Big Ten road games they have played, helping Iowa match Maryland’s 20-4 overall record and 11-2 start in conference play.
"It’s never easy on the road, but I think the energy that we’ve able to bring to road games has been important," Hawkeye guard Makenzie Meyer said. "That can be tough, staying in a hotel and everything, but we work hard to bring that energy to games away from home."
Coach Lisa Bluder believes having veteran guards like Doyle, Meyer and Alexis Sevillian also makes a difference, particularly in late-game situations.
She said their experience has been invaluable when Iowa finds itself in a close game down the stretch.
"It makes a huge difference," Bluder said. "We talk about it all the time in the huddle, ‘Hey, we’ve been here before,’ and it gives you the confidence to go out and finish the job."
The Hawkeyes have accomplished that in their last three games against the Terrapins, including in a 66-61 victory over Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Jan. 9.
A number of the statistics in that game didn’t make a lot of sense.
Neither team shot particularly well and they combined for 45 turnovers. The Terrapins grabbed 38 offensive rebounds but were only able to turn those second chances into 25 points.
"That game told us we had to become a better rebounding team," Meyer said. "We know we’re going to have to go in there and box out and limit their second opportunities. We won that game, but you aren’t going win many when you give up 38 offensive rebounds."
Bluder said there are other areas where Iowa needs to improve if it hopes to become the only team other than top-ranked South Carolina to defeat the Terrapins at the Xfinity Center this season.
"We struggled with their zone, Monika (Czinano) was in foul trouble and we need to take better care of the ball," Bluder said. "We know we’ll have to play better defense because Maryland is shooting the ball better now. We know going to their place, we’re going to have to play a near-perfect game."
Iowa isn’t the only team looking for an improved performance tonight.
Following her team’s 79-50 rout of Rutgers on Sunday, Maryland coach Brenda Frese said her team’s performance at Carver-Hawkeye Arena "didn’t sit well" with the Terrapins.
Maryland has won its last nine games since losing to the Hawkeyes.
"We’re a totally different team. I’ve said this all along since the Iowa game, it’s now a player-led team. It’s not being led by me anymore, which is a beautiful thing," Frese said. "You see the results of where that’s has taken us, but we know Iowa is a really, really good team."
That respect is shared.
"We know we’re going to have to be at our best," Doyle said.