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What We Learned: Indiana's 79-69 loss to national title contender Maryland

The streak had to break at some point, and against the 13th best team in the country, there was a decent chance it would. Teri Moren's group gave it all they had on Thursday night at Assembly Hall, and even led by six at the break.

It wouldn't last.

IU failed to make it five wins in a row, as the Terrapins took over and never looked back, eventually grabbing their sixth win of the year away from College Park, this one by double figures. No. 18 Indiana records its sixth loss of the year, its fourth in conference play, and its ninth straight to Maryland.

Grace Berger is guarded by Maryland's Blair Watson Thursday night inside Assembly Hall. Indiana lost its ninth straight matchup with the Terps, 79-69. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

Here's what we learned.

Maryland is really good, period

I mean, the Terrapins average over 80 points per game — and made 79 look easy — even after putting up 32 in the first half. Kaila Charles' consistency, speed, and raw athletic ability were all of course givens on Thursday night, but freshman Ashley Owusu was a serious problem spot for IU defensively. Coming off the game of her young career Monday versus Michigan State, Owusu left little to be wondered against Indiana, matching Ali Patberg layup for layup, possession after possession.

Maryland shot over 50 percent on the night and took advantage of every IU miscue, especially in the second half, converting 14 total points off Indiana turnovers. At a certain point, it seemed like even the amount of film Indiana watched to prepare for the Terps didn't matter. The speed and pace Maryland created in transition at times made IU look like, well...not the 18th best team in the country. Maryland finished with 22 fast-break points. The Terps consistently excelled in creating mismatches against the Indiana defense, and winning the third quarter 26-11 turned out to be deadly.

"Usually you worry about your transition off a miss," Moren said. "But they were equally good off even a made basket. There were moments where they were flying down the floor and we hadn't even turned around, and that was disappointing to watch."

Great basketball teams make their opponents feel uncomfortable, even with one of the strongest home-court advantages in the country against them. Maryland is a great basketball team.

No one can go it alone

"She can't play 40 minutes. She just can't."

Moren was quick to the point when discussing how important it'll be to take the load off of Ali Patberg, as IU enters the home stretch of the regular season.

It's true that Indiana goes as Patberg does, and IU will continue to need near-triple-double performances from its star point guard if this group hopes to go far in the postseason. But consistently high performance from the rest of the group has been a major question mark from the earliest points in the season. Thursday against Maryland, all of it was exposed.

Indiana turned the ball over 17 total times, and the Terps cashed in, scoring 14 off of them. In the words of Moren on Thursday night, ball security is paramount to success against a team like Maryland, and that statistic alone proved to be more than nails in the coffin.

It actually looked like a balanced effort on paper, with four Hoosiers reaching double figures. In fact, even with the miscues, turnovers and fast-break points from Maryland, 69 points is generally enough to beat a lot of teams on Indiana's schedule.

Ali Patberg tries to maneuver around Maryland's Ashley Owusu Thursday night. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

The real difference maker: not getting the ball in the hands of those who needed it, and that almost always starts with Mackenzie Holmes. The freshman finished the night with 12 points, but could've easily had 10 more had she been a more active role player in the second half. Whether it's a more active defensive role for Holmes, or an adjustment in the way Patberg and others distribute the ball, things will need to change, because Holmes is crucial to Indiana's success moving forward.

"As much as it's our job to give our kids confidence, we need confidence too from those guys," Moren said of her bench. "There should be no drop-off."

Defining 'the next step'

A marquee win over No. 5 South Carolina. A tough effort with No. 2 Baylor. Finding some way to win with just 58 points against No. 21 Miami. A heartbreaking loss in double overtime at Iowa. The list goes on.

Thursday marked the fifth ranked opponent IU has faced this season, and it was easily the biggest challenge up to this point. If there's anything positive to take away from a second straight loss to the Terps in 2020, it's that in spite of so many difficulties, IU still managed to put up 69 points; and at the end of the day, a tough schedule has to count for something.

"There were some really good things that we did tonight, which we didn't do at their place," Moren said. "Those are the moments of growth."

And it's true. The Hoosiers were much better Thursday than they were just two and a half weeks ago in College Park, and the growth from game to game is tangible.

Perspective is an important thing which we so often lose sight of, and Indiana is, after all, still a top 25 team with just six losses to its name. IU's tough road will ultimately do more help than hurt, but it's still difficult to overlook the issues which continue to plague the same team for weeks on end. The next three weeks should go a long way in showing us what Indiana's ceiling truly will be, because honestly, we still aren't sure.

If it's the same team that learns from tough losses and fails to stop improving, the month of March could be fun. Very fun.

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