With only a few games remaining in the regular season and a seemingly clear spot on the bubble in the Hoosier’s grasp, Indiana picked up their first ranked win of the season by defeating #20 Michigan 72 to 61.
“We know what we’re playing for,” said Coach Teri Moren. “That’s the thing that keeps us motivated. If we want any post season hopes, we’ve got to take care of our business. Going down the stretch here, I really like how they’re playing.”
Beating a ranked opponent in the first place can be considered impressive, but the most eye-opening facet of tonight’s game was the way in which this Hoosiers team won.
From the opening tip, Indiana addressed some of their biggest flaws.
On December 8th, Indiana defeated Northern Kentucky 100-49. Despite winning by 51 points, Moren was left frustrated with the team’s defensive intensity, and their bench production.
“Defending is hard,” Coach Moren said after the game. “And rebounding is hard. And until we can get our kids to understand that—tonight, I kept asking them not to play the scoreboard, just to really focus on ourselves defensively being more sound, getting off screens better. And again, we’ve struggled with that.”
After expressing her complaints about the team’s defense, she then went on to discuss the effort of her bench.
“We’ve got to be serious about getting better,” said Moren. “It’s not my starters per se. It’s the help that’s coming off the bench right now that’s not taking pride in what we’re asking them to do.”
From that moment on, the focus for the Indiana Hoosiers has always been clear. Tyra Buss, Alexis Gassion, and Amanda Cahill were always going to be able to produce offensively. The question for Moren and Indiana was whether or not the team could solve their defensive issues and find some sort of semblance of secondary scoring.
Tonight, Indiana held Michigan to their lowest point total in a first half all season. Michigan was held to only 22 points at halftime, as the Hoosiers forced 10 turnovers in the first two quarters.
In addition to the defensive effort of the Hoosiers, Indiana also found production from their bench. Indiana found themselves with 17 bench points, and a majority of those points came from a brand new member of the Hoosier reserves.
Coming into tonight, senior guard Karlee McBride had been shooting at a 28% clip from the field. Even with that shooting percentage, McBride had still maintained her status as a mainstay in the Hoosier starting lineup until tonight.
Tonight, Moren relegated McBride to the bench and replaced her with freshman guard Ria Gulley.
Off the bench, McBride played a different role than usual. In her new role, McBride found herself setting the tone for the Hoosiers from the moment she checked into the game.
Four minutes into the game, McBride checked in and quickly ignited a 13-0 run to give the Hoosiers a 23-8 lead by the end of the first quarter. McBride played a major role in that early run, and throughout the entire game as she ended her night with 13 points.
McBride wasn’t the only member of the bench to play a pivotal role as starting center Jenn Anderson found herself in foul trouble with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
After Anderson picked up her second foul in the first quarter, Indiana looked to freshman Darby Foresman, sophomore Kym Royster, and senior Tyshee Towner to fill the role.
All three took the challenge and supported the Hoosiers defensively.
After the first quarter, the Hoosiers continued to pour it on offensively. The team shot 50 percent from the field and 6-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half. That offensive output helped the team secure a 40-22 lead at halftime.
The Hoosiers were then able to maintain their double digit lead for the entirety of the third quarter, but that doesn’t mean that Michigan didn’t start to show signs of life.
Behind the efforts of their leading scorer Katelynn Flaherty, the Wolverines shot 53 percent from the field in the third quarter. The Wolverines then rode that momentum into the fourth, as they were able to cut Indiana’s lead to eight after a 9-0 run started by a Kysre Gondrezick three.
That eight point deficit was the closest Michigan would come, as Indiana pulled away with a 72-61 win.
Along with the various improvements made by the Hoosiers, Indiana also found a few constants in their game. Tyra Buss continued her scoring success by leading the team with 21 points, and Amanda Cahill put up her ninth double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
After tonight’s resume building victory, the Hoosiers will now be going on the road to take on Nebraska on Sunday.