Earlier today, Indiana Women’s Basketball lost to Iowa for the third time in 16 days, falling to the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game. It was a back-and-forth affair that saw both teams leading in the second half, but Iowa made a few more plays than IU did and pulled it out. Here’s three things:
B1G’s best player wore yellow
The regular season Big Ten Player of the Year was Iowa Guard Caitlin Clark. The Hawkeyes won today because they had the best player on the floor. Much to the chagrin of the ESPN broadcast crew, however, that player wasn’t Caitlin Clark. It was Monika Czinano.
The Senior dominated. She finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, both game highs. She was 13-18 from the field and commanded the high post, serving as the benefactor of Hawkeye pick-n-rolls all day long.
IU played good defense overall, especially when it came to neutralizing Clark. Nicole Cardaño-Hillary was draped over her for most of the game, recording 4 steals and even drawing an offensive foul against Clark. The B1G POY was just 6-17 on field goal attempts and had 5 turnovers. The Hoosiers defense was only beat when they doubled the ball, forcing Iowa to make tough passes (which they did). The Hawkeyes finished the game with 21 assists, 10 more than the Hoosiers have been allowing per game this year. 21 assists is a lot, but it proves that IU made them work for every basket, and we should all be able to come to terms with that silver lining. The team that played better won, it is what it is.
Iowa took advantage of what they were given
As I mentioned above with assist opportunities, Iowa was just really good at taking what Indiana gave them.
Indiana didn’t turn the ball over often, but Iowa capitalized each time it happened, scoring 19 points off the Hoosiers’ 10 turnovers. None were more back-breaking than the Czinano lay-in that put Iowa up 70-63 with 2:40 left in regulation. IU had just forced Caitlin Clark into a bad shot attempt, missed a three-attempt of their own, and was priming to attack again when an Ali Patberg pass was intercepted by Iowa’s Gabbie Marshall. Iowa went down and scored 12 seconds later but the Hoosiers stayed in the fight.
NCH hit a 3 to pull IU within 4 at the 2:12 mark. Both teams then traded fouls and steals for the next 82 seconds until Grace Berger tried to stand tall and take a charge. Berger was bowled over by Czinano, but her feet were in the restricted area, and the Senior was sent off after her 5th personal foul. Indiana tried to play the foul game for the remaining :50, but it’s efforts were futile. Iowa had all but won the second Berger fouled out.
The loss, and seeing how emotional it made the IU players certainly stings, but I think we all ought to take it with the largest grain of salt.
IU’s season-long arc has gone through the ringer— numerous times. There was the Mackenzie Holmes injury and the COVID pause and the grueling abbreviated stretch at the end of the season. They battled Big Ten refs and the rest of the conference’s middle linebackers disguised as shooting guards throughout, yet they still showed up in Indy throwing haymakers. They competed in (and nearly won) 4 games in 4 days, that’s insane.
The Hoosiers are tough as nails. Watching IU pull each other up every time they got knocked down this year has been nothing short of inspiring. One of the most overused sports clichés is that teams “play for each other”, but it rings true for Indiana. The women on this team love each other, and seeing them make that fact apparent on the court makes me really happy. They will make some serious noise in March Madness because it’s impossible for another team to throw a punch they haven’t seen. They are truly undaunted, so hop on the bandwagon now, there’s plenty of room.
Also Grace Berger and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary made the All-Tournament team. Well deserved!
What comes next
The Hoosiers will be in action next during the NCAA Tournament, scheduled to run from March 16th to April 3rd. As of this morning, ESPN projects Indiana as a 4-seed (top 4 seeds in each region serve as host sites). Another close loss to Iowa, who are projected as a 3-seed, should keep the Hoosiers as a 4. We won’t know for sure until the Selection Show next Sunday, but the Cream and Crimson faithful should feel pretty good about getting a pair of home games at Assembly Hall.