No. 18 Iowa, No. 15 Maryland look to climb Big Ten standings
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Two of the Big Ten's hottest teams will meet Thursday when No. 18 Iowa visits No. 15 Maryland in College Park, Md.
With four teams within two games of Big Ten-leading Illinois and Michigan State, surging Iowa (15-5, 6-3) and Maryland (16-4, 6-3) will try to keep pace in what certainly looks like the country's leading basketball conference top-to-bottom this season. Six teams are ranked, four more are receiving votes, and 12 already have 11 or more victories.
Iowa has won five games in a row, including Monday's dramatic comeback to beat Wisconsin, 68-62. And the streak began Jan. 10 with a 67-49 pasting of Maryland in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes held the Terrapins to 32.7 percent shooting -- just 4-of-22 from 3-point range -- and pounded them on the boards 44-32.
"Our defense was really good, our activity. We got some transition opportunities and really moved the ball," said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery after that first meeting. "When you look at this game, I think our rebounding was really critical."
And the boards should be vital again as the two teams ranked sixth and seventh in the Big Ten's rebound margin clash. The Terps are +6.1, while the Hawkeyes are next at +4.8. The offensive rebounds also are close, with Maryland third in the conference at 12.5 and Iowa next with 12.2. It's just one indication of how evenly matched these teams are.
The difference for Maryland's resurgence of late has been improved shooting -- 13 threes against Northwestern and 12 against Indiana. Defense remains the Terrapins' calling card, though. Can Maryland, still last in the Big Ten at 41.4 percent shooting from the field, bring that improved long-range touch back home?
They'll need to. The Hawkeyes are scoring a conference-best 79.6 points per game and are second in 3-point shooting, converting 35.2 percent on the season.
The Hawkeyes were deadeyes in that first meeting, hitting 6 of 10 first-half 3-point attempts and jumping out to a 14-point halftime lead. Joe Wieskamp had 26 points, hitting 5 of 9 3-point attempts in the game. Center Luka Garza did his typical damage inside with 21 points and 13 rebounds and Iowa ran away with the game. Jalen Smith led Maryland with a modest 13 points and had just five boards in what Maryland coach Mark Turgeon termed "one of the worst games" that one of his teams ever played.
Now the 6-foot-10 sophomore Smith is coming off Big Ten Player of the Week honors after back-to-back career highs of 25 points at Northwestern and then 29 at Indiana. More significantly, Maryland, which hadn't won on the road this season before those contests, is coming off back-to-back road victories and brimming with confidence after three consecutive Big Ten wins. Oh, and the Terrapins are 11-0 at home.
"(Smith) has been phenomenal, offensively, defensively, decision-making," Turgeon said. "He's walking around with a little bit more of a swagger between games so he's feeling good about himself. He's just more confident."
The Hawkeyes return home Feb. 2 to host league-leading and 19th-ranked Illinois. Maryland stays home to meet upstart Rutgers, ranked No. 25 this week, on Feb. 4.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 30, 2020