College Park — B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
There’s no better way to describe the game inside Xfinity Center on Tuesday, in which the No. 8 Maryland women’s basketball team buried Iowa and one of the country’s most dangerous players in one quarter.
In which senior Katie Benzan tied a school record for 3-pointers in a game (eight) by halftime and snapped it in the second half.
In which the Terps eclipsed 100 points for the fifth time this season to cruise to a 111-93 victory over the Hawkeyes. With the most points scored against a Big Ten Conference opponent since it joined the league in 2014, Maryland (17-2, 13-1) extended its winning streak to six and sent a powerful message to the rest of the conference: Send your best player. We’ve got 10.
“Our staff was honestly stunned at halftime. We didn’t tell the girls that. I’ve never been part of a game like that,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I can’t wait to go back and watch the game.”
According to the Big Ten Network, it’s the most points Maryland has scored in a conference game since a 111-53 win at Miami on Jan. 10, 2007, when the Terps were a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. It’s also tied for the third-most points Maryland has scored in a league game in program history.
Benzan’s nine 3-pointers breaks the program’s single-game mark, one she herself reached against Arkansas in November and previously shared with four others. It also ties the school’s men’s basketball record, and her 29 points marked a career high for the graduate transfer from Harvard.
Benzan started to feel the excitement at halftime, as her teammates were buzzing from the electricity of the first half.
“I can’t put it in words. I just read the defense,” Benzan said, “and they were playing a zone, which opened up the 3-point line for all of us. The shots just went down, and we play with such a great point guard in Ash [Owusu], who finds the open person every single time.”
Together, sophomores Diamond Miller (27 points), Ashley Owusu (24 points) and Benzan took turns dumping kerosene on Iowa (12-7, 8-7) and lighting the blaze with a combined 14 3-pointers. The Terps finished the game 15-for-22 from deep.
Owusu reached supreme floor general status in Frese’s book. She logged the only double double on the court; her 12 assists were two away from tying an Xfinity Center program record.
Their firepower, and a suffocating Maryland defense, rendered the 34-point performance from Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark — widely considered one of the best freshmen in America, averaging 26.9 points per game — powerless to stop it. Scoring most of her points in the first half, Clark broke her own single-game record with nine 3-pointers.
“Caitlin Clark is the best freshman in the country,” Frese said. “If you can go against a top-10 program like us — and we did everything to stop her — and still get 34 points? I think it says it all.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Maryland had something else to celebrate. Even though Frese expected to save her for the postseason, Angel Reese really couldn’t have returned in a better game.
The star freshman out of St. Frances has been missing since Dec. 3, when she fractured her foot against Towson. On Saturday, she left her sideline role as part of a two-man hype crew with assistant coach Keith Pough to contribute eight points in 12 minutes.
With the Big Ten tournament still two weeks away, Reese finds herself in an excellent position to warm back to actual gameplay before the postseason. Though practices have been limited lately, leaving less time for Reese to prepare for her return, Frese said the Baltimore native never stopped fueling her hunger to return to play, between working with staff and running workouts on her own.
“She’s 100% healed. We wanted to test the waters if it presented itself today,” Frese said. “We’re not going to be able to practice tomorrow after this physical game. I thought she was huge. I thought her energy was great, to be able to have that energy and depth and to be able to send waves.”
If there’s a record for most 3-pointers in the first three minutes, Maryland and Iowa seemed to be gunning for it. The teams hit a combined 15 from beyond the arc before the end of the quarter.
Miller hit two of her four, setting the Terps on the right track until Clark splashed three straight as easily as if she was alone on the floor.
But Maryland, as a team, played together. Iowa did not.
All of the Hawkeyes’ first nine points belonged to Clark, a total that dragged into the sixth minute as Maryland defenders increased attention on the dynamic freshman. For the rest of the Hawkeyes, the Terps defense suppressed offense like smog on the hottest day.
The Terps spread the wealth, with Benzan logging a couple triples and Owusu scoring in relief. Miller, far from finished, added another bucket from the perimeter, as did Benzan. And just like that, the Terps settled on a 27-9 lead over Iowa less than midway through the quarter.
Maryland strutted out of the quarter with eight 3-pointers — tying the program record for most in a quarter — and a 20-point lead, 41-21.
The fun wasn’t over for the Terps. With a 68-51 lead at halftime, Maryland set a Big Ten record for most points in two quarters and tied the league record for most first-half points in a conference or nonconference game.
Frese said her defense worked a little more face-guarding against Clark in the second half to make her work harder. Miller took on much of the responsibility of shutting Clark down; the freshman’s production dropped to five points in the second half.
“That’s the growth in Diamond’s game. I’m so proud of her, to be able to see the ownership, that she wanted to be able to take that energy with Caitlin,” Frese said. “It transferred to the offense end. I don’t think Diamond’s ever been so tired in a game. It’s awesome. That’s the kind of talent Diamond has.”
NO. 8 MARYLAND@PURDUE
Thursday, 6 p.m.