Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Megan Gustafson’s strong second half powers No. 14 Iowa over No. 7 Maryland

Entering this matchup Maryland head coach Brenda Frese knew what a challenge it would be to slow down Megan Gustafson the nation’s leading scorer and one of the best players in the entire country. After struggling in the first half, Gustafson finished with 31 points and 17 rebounds leading No. 14 Iowa (21-5 12-3 B1G) over No. 7 Maryland (23-3 12-3 B1G) 86-73. Iowa defeated Maryland for the first time since 1992, and improved its record to 18-0 this season when out-rebounding the opponent.

In the first half, the Terps did a tremendous job limiting Gustafson’s success with just seven points and four rebounds at the half, way below her season average of 27 points per game. Gustafson was the center of the Terps attention on defense, freshman forward Shakira Austin Maryland’s best interior defender made it tough for Gustafson inside. While Austin played strong defense as the primary defender, the Terps guards did a good job of helping down on the block not allowing Gustafson to set up in good positions.

After a tight first quarter, Iowa capitalized on the Terps mistakes using an 8-2 run to take a 25-18 lead, its largest of the game with 5:58 left in the first half. Frustrated with her team’s effort, Frese called a timeout to regroup. Immediately out of the timeout, Maryland came out with a renewed energy putting together an 11-0 run to retake a 29-25 lead. Freshman guard Taylor Mikesell began the run continuing to add to her freshman record with consecutive threes followed up by a three-point-play from Austin to put the Terps back on top.

The freshman needed to step up in the first half, with Maryland in foul trouble early. The veteran duo of junior guard Blair Watson and senior forward Brianna Fraser each picked up their second foul early in the second quarter, forcing Frese to limit their minutes meaning more time for the freshman.

After struggling in the first half, Gustafson caught fire in the third quarter with 12 points managing to get past the tough Maryland defense. With Gustafson’s improved play, the Hawkeyes improved as a team leading by eight at the end of the third quarter. Senior guard Tania Davis continued to look for Gustafson, despite the Terps defense keying in on her.

However, proving resilient Maryland scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to retake the lead 59-58, including consecutive baskets from Mikesell. Until the final two minutes every time Iowa extended its lead to eight or more, the Terps battled back. With 4:08 remaining the Hawkeyes had a seven-point-lead, however junior forward Stephanie Jones would not go away without a fight. Jones who scored a team-high 21 points, converted an and-one cutting the deficit to four. Soon after, sophomore guard Channise Lewis knocked down a wide-open three cutting the Hawkeye lead to 70-69 with 3:25 remaining.

On the ensuing possession trying to battle for position, junior guard Kaila Charles was called for her fourth foul putting Gustafson at the line, which Maryland could not battle back from. Mikesell and Lewis missed consecutive threes, and Davis grabbed the rebound for Iowa finding a wide-open teammate redshirt sophomore Alex Sullivan in the corner extending the Hawkeye lead to 75-69 with 2:31 remaining.

Iowa would tack on some insurance free throws down the stretch, allowing them to secure the double-digit victory. Now the Terps will return home, to host Minnesota on Thursday at the Xfinity Center.