The 2021-2022 Indiana Women’s Basketball season came to a close yesterday afternoon as the Hoosiers fell to Connecticut, 75-58 in the Sweet Sixteen. Here’s how it all went down:
Battle for Boards
UConn got the best of IU yesterday because they were bigger, faster, and stronger than the Hoosiers. This disparity was especially apparent when it came to rebounding. The Huskies finished with 39 rebounds, while the Hoosiers had 27.
UConn took advantage of their boards, too. The Huskies scored 14 points of 15 offensive rebounds, while IU scored just 2 off just 2. It all came down to shot volume. Percentage-wise the teams were about even (IU shot 48% while UConn shot 46%), but the Huskies had 67 attempts and the Hoosiers only had 48. It’s very hard to score more points if you shoot 40% fewer shots than your opponent, I don’t care how efficient you are. UConn can thank the Law of Large Numbers for their victory.
Husky Forwards Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards couldn’t be stopped. They finished with 14 and 10 boards respectively and had the biggest impacts of any two players on the floor. Their reach on defense allowed for UConn to double Grace Berger quickly, forcing her into difficult shots and tough passes. Berger finished the game without an assist for the first time all season.
Ali Patberg was the pace car for the Hoosiers. She had a game-high 16 points off 7-9 shooting and was 2-3 from deep. She was awesome. It was the 7th-year’s final college game, and Hoosier fans owe #14 a huge thank you for all she’s done for the program. This Senior class will go down as one of the most influential in school history, but more on that later.
The Third Quarter
The first half was filled with runs. IU led 8-2 and 18-13 in the first before UConn scored 8 consecutive points to take the lead. An Ali Patberg triple then tied the game. UConn then went on another 6-0 run before another Ali Patberg three made it a one possession game with 6:36 remaining in the 2nd. Each time UConn started to pull away in the first half, the Hoosiers got a stop and a score. They were hanging with the Death Star. An Aleksa Gulbe buzzer beater brought the Hoosiers to within four at the break, as they trailed 37-33. It was anyone’s game. . . until it wasn’t.
The Huskies blew the game wide open with a 16-0 run. It was 4 minutes and 4 seconds of utter dominance. Here’s what Indiana managed during the mayhem: 5 fouls, 2 turnovers, shooting 0/4 on field goals. It was tragically reminiscent of lapses the Hoosiers underwent earlier in the season. Playing a complete 40 minutes was the team’s biggest struggle up until the Big Ten tourney, but they’d gotten it together and were playing four consistent quarters a night up until halftime yesterday. It was frustrating, but we need keep in mind that UConn is a top-6 team in the country. Set the controller down for just a second and they’ll bury ya. Indiana had no answers for the fury of Paige Bueckers and Co.
A NCH bucket with 5:56 remaining stopped the bleeding, but the wound was already fatal. The Hoosiers fought valiantly, but could never claw back to within double digits. Huskies move on, 75-58.
A glimpse of what’s to come
Many people are #MadOnline because UConn got to play their Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games on “home court” (They’re the Bridgeport site host school and the arena is an hour from campus). I don’t have a problem with it. Connecticut is a Women’s basketball hotbed. UConn has been good forever, and their fans have been devoted and have shown out forever, they’ve earned it. Rather than viewing the whole region-host thing as the bane of IU’s season, fans should see it as a goal for the future.
We’ll touch on it extensively a little later, but Indiana can and should become a Women’s basketball school. IU has the money and talent. They’ve got the coach, too. Teri Moren is as good as they come, and her understanding of the Geno Auriemma blueprint is why we have faith in all of this happening. All they need now is the national exposure and crazy fandom. The University and Media have some real strides to take in terms of giving the WBB better coverage and making more of an effort to promote the team, but progress was made this season. Those home tourney games in Assembly were huge and a testament to the program’s upward trajectory. They can do this. Give it five years and we wouldn’t be shocked if IU was selling out Gainbridge, serving as the #1-seed in the Indianapolis region of the tournament. Go Hoosier. Thanks for a fun year.