Maryland junior forward Brianna Fraser questions a call during the Terps' 91-58 win over the Great Danes. (Joel Valley/The Left Bench)

Maryland to go through first challenge of conference play against 18th ranked Hawkeyes

Maryland found themselves at risk for their first loss against the Nittany Lions on New Year’s Eve but managed to pull out the win in the final moments in State College. The new year will bring new challenges to the Terps as they face their first ranked team since playing No. 1 ranked Connecticut when the No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes come to the Xfinity Center.

The 13th ranked Terrapins’ (13-2) only two losses have come against ranked teams, and they have not notched a win this season over a team in the top 25 rankings.

Despite their struggles against ranked competition, they are in a midst of a 11 game winning streak with their win at Penn State last Sunday.

Maryland trailed the Nittany Lions with just 3 minutes left in the game. But thanks to a five second violation forced by the pressing Maryland defense and a late game layup by Stephanie Jones, the Terps pulled out the win.

“Full court, three-quarter court or half-court different things we’re looking at defensively,” head coach Brenda Frese said.“That really helps to jump start us defensively and get going.”

Guard Blair Watson led the team in scoring, making five three pointers from beyond the arc to rack up 15 points, and was one of four Terps to finish in double digits on the day.

However, two of the top scorers for Maryland had rough shooting days from the floor, as guard Iesha Small only shot 5-for-16 on the day, and Kaila Charles shot 1-for-11, her worst shooting performance of the season.

The Terps will have to pick up their shooting efforts against a stingy Iowa defense that has only allowed opponents to shoot 34.2 percent on the season, which is the 16th lowest in the nation.

The Hawkeyes are on a seven-game winning streak, most recently dismantling the then No. 19 Michigan Wolverines by 10 points. Junior center Megan Gustafson scored 27 points on 8-for-9 shooting, to go along with 11 rebounds and six blocks.

Gustafson is the driving force for the Hawkeye team as she leads the team in rebounding and scoring, averaging 22.5 points and 12 boards. Maryland, who uses a smaller four guard lineup, will have to come up with an answer for the 6-foot-3-inch force in the paint this Thursday.

This is going to be a big, real test,” Frese said.

Frese is undefeated against Iowa, the team she grew up just 30 miles down the road from. However, this is the highest the Hawkeyes have been ranked when playing the Terrapins in the Frese era.

Maryland has been good rebounding however, averaging a 10.5 rebounding margin,14th in the nation and just five spots above Iowa, who boasts a rebounding margin of 10.

“We try to rebound and run – that’s what we do, so we try to capitalize on that,” center Brianna Fraser said.

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.