Women’s Basketball looks to revive its season at home against Caitlin Clark and Iowa

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

On February 21, of last season, the No. 7 ranked Terps stunned the women’s college basketball world with a near 30-point throttling of the No. 6 Iowa Hawkeyes. Led by veteran leaders Diamond Miller (16 pts, 4 ast.) and Abby Meyers (8 pts, 9 reb, 5 ast.), as well as standout performances from Brinae Alexander (24 pts.), Shyanne Sellers (17 pts, 10 reb, 7 ast.), and Lavender Briggs (19 pts, 5 reb.), the game cemented itself as an all-time classic in Maryland history.

This Saturday night, the now No. 3 Hawkeyes (20-2) return to College Park for the first time since last year’s big Maryland victory. This time, though, the Terps (12-9) are in a different position. Now unranked and without key contributors in both Miller and Meyers, Maryland looks to make a statement once more – not to move ahead of the Hawkeyes in the rankings or mark themselves as a top championship contender like last year, but rather, simply save its 2023-24 NCAA tournament selection hopes.

Now a junior, Shyanne Sellers takes primary leadership on this revamped Maryland team this season – posting career-highs and leading the team in points (15.4 PPG), assists (5.2 APG), rebounds (5.6 RPG), and blocks (0.6 BPG).

“It starts with your best player and one of the best in the country,” Terps’ head coach Brenda Frese said of Sellers earlier this season. “We’re asking her to carry a huge load and that’s what continues to make her so special…She’s doing a great job commanding that position, knowing when to score and when to get others involved.”

However, Sellers’ breakout season is on pause for the moment, as a leg injury midway through last Sunday’s loss against Penn State put the star junior’s status for this week’s two-game lineup (as well as the rest of the season) in question. After ultimately being held out of this Wednesday’s game against No. 10 Indiana, Sellers is now officially questionable for Saturday. While she is an instrumental piece to the Terps in all aspects, one thing is certain; whether she suits up or not this weekend – others will have to step up for Maryland to have any shot at taking down the Hawkeyes.

One other player that has stepped up for the Terps this season is Jakia Brown-Turner. The senior guard is on an offensive tear as of late, posting 20+ points in each of Maryland’s last four contests. Not only has she been scoring the basketball at a high clip, but she’s been doing it at a pretty efficient rate – shooting 53% or better from the field in five of the last six (including two games with a 70 and 88.9 FG%, respectively).

Bri McDaniel’s jump and growth from her freshman to now-sophomore season needs to be studied – she’s been that good. Through 21 games this season, McDaniel has served as the team’s anchor defensively, leading the Terps in steals per game (1.8 SPG). But the Chicago native has also been a key contributor on the offensive end, averaging 12.7 points per game – tying and breaking her career high (now set at 25 points) multiple times – and also stepping into an alternative point guard role, as she’s showed skills as a facilitator with numerous five, six, and seven assist outings.

On the flip side to Maryland’s balanced scoring attack is the Iowa Hawkeyes – who have clearly established star senior Caitlin Clark as the team’s premier leader and bucket-getter. Clark is posting video-game-like stats, headlined by a mind boggling career-high in points (32 PPG)  – not to mention, she leads the entire country in total assists (160), triple doubles (4), three-pointers (112), points (672), and field goals made (223). For reference, the senior guard most recently dropped 35 points and 10 assists in a dominant win Wednesday over Northwestern, while simultaneously moving to #2 on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list. Clark sells out visiting areas on a nightly basis, and rightfully so, as she’s truly a cheat code with the basketball. Simply put: no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to stop her from scoring, assisting, or excelling offensively.

The Hawkeyes are, fittingly, a high-volume shooting team. Double-teaming or pressuring Clark hardly ever works, as a variety of three-point specialists are set up around her – making it impossible for opposing defenses to stay grounded and fully commit to a player without giving up open looks elsewhere on the perimeter. 

Though averaging just 5.2 points per game this season, Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall is another player who can catch fire from deep on any given night. The senior guard has been streaky as of late, hitting four triples in four of the last seven games – with 17 total triples made over that span. She’s hitting shots efficiently as well, shooting 50% or better from three-point land in five of those seven games mentioned.

Kate Martin is another Hawkeye guard that can score from virtually anywhere on the court. Martin serves as one of the team’s top players consistency-wise, as she’s scored 10+ points in 12 out of the team’s last 15 games – with a single-game high of 19 points (60% on triples) during that span. Part of what makes the Hawkeyes so dangerous is their ability to move in from the perimeter and crash the glass after missed shots, and utilizing rebounding to result in second-chance scoring opportunities. Martin is an example of that, as the senior guard averages six rebounds per game and has collected double-digit boards in three games this season.

Entering the game as heavy underdogs, the Terps have a great opportunity to shock college basketball once more and pull off the upset of the season. Iowa’s scoring attack is dangerous, but Maryland has the firepower to keep up – having scored a season-high 114 points in a single game earlier this season, just a point better than Iowa’s high of 113 in mid-November. If others on the Terps can step up in the scoring department, as well as keep up and pressure the Hawkeyes defensively, a victory is certainly possible.