COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland came into Thursday’s game against Iowa with a collection of nice wins. Nice. But there was no signature win.
This game vs. the Hawkeyes presented that opportunity and Maryland seized it in a 74-68 victory over No. 3 Iowa at XFINITY Center in College Park.
These signature games (and signature victories) are what separates the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament from the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. Maryland missed chances earlier in the year to notch these kinds of victories, but Thursday was different.
Robert Carter, Jr. powered the second-half offensive push with 17 points and seven rebounds. Rasheed Sulaimon had 17 of his own. Defensively, Maryland held Iowa star Jarrod Uthoff to just nine points on 2-of-13 shooting.
Here are five things you need to know.
1) Diamond Stone starts, but Turgeon pulls plug early
On Thursday, for the first time since Dec. 1 vs. North Carolina (save a clerical error against Rutgers), Diamond Stone was in the starting lineup for Maryland. But the same problems that forced him to the bench earlier in the year showed themselves again.
He had a few subpar defensive possessions, allowing Iowa center Adam Woodbury to rack up five points before the under-16 timeout.
2) The feel of Maryland-North Carolina early
As everyone was applauding Maryland’s shot-making on Dec. 1 against North Carolina, Mark Turgeon pointed to the other end of the floor -- the defense -- that was lacking. You saw some of that against Iowa.
The Hawkeyes want to make you scramble. Coming off made baskets, they would push the ball up the floor and attack Maryland when the court was scattered. But Maryland was losing shooters in transition and not getting back.
Basket at one end, surrender one at the other. It was an offensive showing from both sides. Maryland shot 55 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range. Iowa shot 50 percent from the floor.
3) Containing Jarrod Uthoff
Robert Carter, Jr. and Jake Layman came into this game being the cornerstones of what Maryland planned to do defensively. With Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff as hard-to-guard wings who can shoot from the outside, it would fall to Carter and Layman to contain them.
In the first half, they did. Uthoff was 0-of-5 from the floor through 20 minutes. It was Carter at times on Uthoff and Layman at others. The most they can ask for is to force Uthoff into tough shots and they did that.
The result was the ball being spread around and, yes, they gave up 35 first-half points, but if it is going to be other players being forced to beat you, so be it.
Maryland wanted to keep him inefficient, but could they really have expected this?
4) Pace changes in the second half
The first half was a shootout. The second half was much different. It was slower and more methodical. Iowa mixed in some zone defensively.
After holding a six-point lead at the break, a 7-0 Iowa run out of the gate put them up by one point by the 17-minute mark. But Maryland fought back as they got the ball back inside, pushing the lead to five by the under-12 media timeout.
The shots weren’t falling for Maryland from deep, which ground the offense to a halt.
5) All hail the under-8 adjustment
Maryland trailed at the under-eight timeout. The zone was giving Maryland trouble. Mark Turgeon made a change. He started to force the ball into the middle of the zone to Robert Carter and everything opened up from there.
He had four points over the next four minutes and created opportunities for Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman around him. To much the crowd’s displeasure, he fouled out on a questionable reach-in call.
That was shortly after Iowa center Adam Woodbury fouled out, too.
When a player fouls out, your team can go one of two ways. Maryland slammed on the gas pedal. Turgeon drew up a beautiful play to get the Terrapins a basket out of the timeout, then the defense got a stop and Jared Nickens laid it in the other way.
Maryland made enough free throws down the stretch to seal it.