The Maryland Terrapins’ reign of terror in the Big Ten Tournament is finally over, as 5-seed Indiana upset the back-to-back champs in the Quarterfinal round earlier this afternoon. The win puts the Hoosiers through to the Semifinal round, where they’ll meet 1-seed Ohio State. Here’s three things:
The Times They Are a-Changin’
One of Indiana’s big issues this season has been slow starts. Falling behind early to start a half doomed them in regular season losses to Michigan, Iowa (x2), and Maryland. IU knew that Maryland would try to put them away early, building a big lead by playing fast, so the Hoosiers decided to turn it into a rock fight.
At the 6:26 mark in the 1st, Nicole Cardaño-Hillary jacked a lazy pass, getting physical with Maryland Forward Angel Reese and forcing her into an offensive foul. NCH was unable to convert on a shot attempt 22 seconds later, but she stuck with the play. The George Mason then transfer tracked down her own rebound, sneaking out of the shadows to pickpocket former Tournament POY Ashley Owusu, giving possession back to the Hoosiers. NCH’s juice play was the initiator, and a big Chloe Moore-McNeil bucket a minute later really got the ball rolling, putting IU up 6-5. They never looked back, winning the quarter 18-13 and commanding pace of play for the remainder of the contest.
It was big. Had IU not jumped ahead early, they probably don’t win this game, and likely end up kissing a set of home NCAA Tournament games goodbye. With the win, however, postseason ball in the Hall is all but clinched.
Maryland pays tribute to Reggie Miller with FG%
40 minutes of defensive effort won Indiana this game. They were stingy, holding the Terrapin offense to just 51 points, their second-lowest output all year. Human energizer bunny Nicole Cardaño-Hillary tallied 4 of IU’s 7 steals, and Grace Berger and Aleksa Gulbe combined for 18 defensive rebounds.
Maryland shot an abysmal 22-70 (31.4%) from the field. Indiana packed it in defensively, swarming All-B1G Forward Angel Reese whenever she set foot inside the paint. IU basically dared the Terps to shoot threes, and it worked to (literal) perfection, as UMD was 0-12 from beyond the arc.
The defensive grind of today’s matchup has a lot of people concerned about fatigue playing a factor in the final rounds of the conference tourney, but I’m not one of them. I think the COVID re-schedulings from earlier in the year are actually going to come in handy for Indiana over the next 48 hours. From February 12th-21st, Indiana played 5 games in 9 days. It’s not quite 4 in 4, but it’s a more strenuous stretch than anything the other remaining B1G teams encountered. The Hoosiers may get tired but at this point, it’s all mental, and they know how to handle it. The experience of playing meaningful basketball in rapid succession is IU’s X factor, and it’s why they have as good of a chance as anyone at becoming the first team to win 4 games in 4 day in the Big Ten Tourney.
(The Real) Return of the Mack
Due to a knee injury suffered January 5th, Forward Mackenzie Holmes missed eight games down the stretch for the Hoosiers. In her absence, the Indiana had to develop a completely new play style, relying more on 3-balls and perimeter shooting. They found success with this new game plan, but something seemed off. Even when Holmes returned on February 17th, things still didn’t seem quite right. She didn’t look 100% healthy, and the Hoosiers’ lack of a dominant post player was concerning. It took the starting five a good while to get their chemistry back up, but they seem to finally be clicking at the right time, and it’s all thanks to Holmes. The 2nd-team All-B1G selection finished with 17 points and was unstoppable when she got the ball into her left hand. She seemed like herself again, and the Hoosiers seemed as happy as I’ve ever seen them. This team is special because of the way they play for and build each other up, it’s honestly heartwarming. Today was a great day to be a Hoosier.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are all that stands in the way between IU and a trip to Championship Sunday. Local Hoosiers, be sure to enjoy the nice weather tomorrow morning, as both the Men and Women play during the afternoon window. MBB faces Purdue in their regular season finale at 2, while WBB’s Semifinal is slated for 3:30. We are in for a fantastic Saturday.