More than two hours before Maryland hosted Iowa, the line to enter Xfinity Center stretched to the parking lot. Some fans carried signs; others wore black-and-gold shirts and jerseys with No. 22 on them.
The Caitlin Clark show was in town Saturday night, and everyone wanted to see it. She did not disappoint.
Maryland’s first sellout crowd since 2016 gasped, screamed and shouted as Clark poured in 38 points during a 93-85 victory for No. 3 Iowa in front of 17,950.
“Caitlin did natural Caitlin things, which are spectacular,” Hawkeyes Coach Lisa Bluder said.
It took all of 16 seconds for Clark to give the people what they came to see: She buried a three-pointer from four steps behind the arc on her first touch during the first possession. That was, quite literally, just the beginning. She closed the quarter with a buzzer-beating, sidestep triple in front of the Maryland bench and grinned. She had 14 points but was just getting started.
Clark closed the second quarter with Iowa’s last nine points, including a play in which she turned in a behind-the-back dribble before spinning away from her defender and banking in a runner while being fouled. Naturally, she hit the free throw for the three-point play. The Hawkeyes (21-2, 10-1 Big Ten) went into halftime with a 52-38 lead.
Maryland (12-10, 4-7) seemed to feed off the energy in the building during an initial burst in which it took an 11-3 lead following Clark’s game-opening triple. At that point, Bluder called a timeout and the Hawkeyes took over for the rest of the half.
“We knew they were going to make another run,” Clark said. “That’s just what their teams do. I think at times Maryland’s record doesn’t show how good Maryland is.”
Maryland trailed by 18 early in the third quarter before its best run of the night got the home crowd roaring. The Terps ripped off a 25-5 stretch as Bri McDaniel heated up and they got out in transition for a 63-61 lead. Iowa regrouped to take a 73-66 advantage into the fourth quarter.
McDaniel pushed hard in transition to help Maryland tie the score at 76 as Iowa seemed to be on its heels defensively. It wasn’t quite enough: Clark’s three-pointer put the Hawkeyes ahead for good, clinching a fourth straight loss for the Terps.
“I think it just shows our maturity,” Clark said. “We go to Ohio State, and we have a nice lead there. We blow it, can’t really ever gain the momentum back. But here I think we kind of took another step forward.”
Clark, who made 7 of 17 three-point tries, added 12 assists and six rebounds. As she nears the NCAA scoring record, she has notched 20-plus points in 108 of 123 career games. Molly Davis added 17 points and Kate Martin had 15 as Iowa shot 46.2 percent.
“We wanted to pick our poison,” Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. “We wanted to make [Clark’s] shots difficult, but we also wanted to kind of keep everybody else down below their average. For the most part, we were able to do that, minus the game that Molly Davis had. She kind of was that X-factor. I thought the zone kind of really slowed [Clark] up. Still had seven threes, but I thought it kind of forced her out of rhythm when we went to the zone in the second half.”
Jakia Brown-Turner led Maryland with 25 points and nine rebounds. McDaniel added 22 points. Shyanne Sellers had 14 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Sellers was back after a one-game absence with a knee injury. She told her teammates earlier in the week that she was determined to play. She practiced Friday, went through shoot-around Saturday and was declared good to go. She wore a bulky brace on her left knee but took her normal spot in the starting lineup, though some of her quickness and cutting ability seemed to be affected.
“We had a lot of intensity,” Sellers said of the second half. “We were attacking them really hard and making it tough to guard and then getting the ball out quicker. I thought that was one of our best games of just getting the ball out quick and trying to run it down their throat and trying to take advantage of the mismatches.”
A rough week and a half has Maryland being viewed as an NCAA tournament bubble team and in danger of missing out for the first time since 2010. That’s the only time the Terps have missed the tournament since 2003. ESPN’s latest bracket projection has Maryland as a No. 12 seed and the last team in the field, but that was before Saturday’s loss to Iowa (which is projected as a No. 1 seed).
“There’s no doubt that we’re an NCAA tournament team,” Frese said. “Our record doesn’t indicate [that, but] we have the number two strength of schedule in the country. … Our NET rating’s still in the top 30s, and we still have four games in our conference against top-50 teams.”