Indiana, as a basketball team, doesn’t give up.
No deficit kills the Hoosiers’ effort.
They needed that in tonight’s 94-91 win over Michigan State.
An extremely hot start from the Spartans caught them on their heels early. A 32 point first quarter forced an answer, but Indiana could only muster 27. Julia Ayrault’s 12 points set the tone early.
The tempo was high from the moment the game tipped off as Michigan State pushed Indiana out of its comfort zone. Indiana is efficient and can execute in the fastbreak but the Spartans have a different gear that allowed them to control the game from the start.
Whenever a shot fell, the Spartans immediately turned up the heat on defense: the same kind of full-court press that doomed the Hoosiers in Columbus. This isn’t unique to Indiana, these teams press everyone, but the issues with it are well-documented.
To its credit, Indiana broke the press on a pretty consistent basis. But it was still enough to throw everyone off balance a bit once the ball crossed halfcourt.
Every player that entered the game in green and white scored in that first quarter, minutes they won 32-27 in a packed Assembly Hall. They won the next quarter too, 21-16, capped off with a buzzer-beating 3 to push the lead to 10.
Those are the moments that make or break teams. Back against the wall, game firmly in control of the opponent. It’s easy to have it just slip out of hand as a lost opportunity, which would’ve added to this season’s running total.
But Indiana doesn’t operate like that.
The third quarter has plagued Indiana this year after being a strength during the Big Ten title run. It’s largely what lost the road matchup against Ohio State and was a point Teri Moren raised to the team after that game.
Indiana’s staff opened the floor to players during that same meeting, and Mackenzie Holmes said that players spent too much time in the locker room during halftime. They should get back onto the court as soon as possible.
Here, just one game later, the Hoosiers spent just four minutes in the locker room before heading back onto the court to get some shots up, trying to get back into game rhythm. It was after a discussion that was again opened by the players.
“We thought, as a team, we needed to get better,” Holmes said. “I thought we did a good job adjusting but just, you know, staying the course.”
They aren’t sure if that’s what did it, but they ended up winning that third quarter 23-15.
Defensive stops finally came as the Spartans shot just 6-12 from the field without any attempts from the line to get points on the board. On the other end, the Hoosiers’ matched their 3 made triples and got the ball to Holmes down low, adding 10 onto the score to get within 2.
DeeDee Hagemann had been carving the Hoosiers up all night, getting open off the dribble and dishing the ball to teammates. She yelled at the Indiana bench after a stepback and did so again after going right at Holmes for a layup to retake the lead in the closing seconds of the third.
The Hoosiers needed perfection to close out the game, and just about got there. Indiana went 10-12 from the field and 6-6 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. Three different Hoosiers made two of those free throws to seal the win.
Indiana retook the lead thanks to a 3 from Sara Scalia and pushed it further with another, this time from Yarden Garzon.
With 19 points and 10 assists to her name, Hagemann drove to the rim to pull the Spartans back within two. She’d done so before, seconds earlier to little resistance from a foul-laden Chloe Moore-McNeil.
Not this time though.
Off the backboard and right into the hands of Moore-McNeil, who immediately got fouled. It was her 10th rebound by the way. Those two free throws? Her ninth and 10th points. On a night she dished out 11 assists.
Through all of that, Moore-McNeil got a triple-double. She had no idea though, having to be told by cheering teammates as she walked off the court.
Quit isn’t in this program’s DNA. The Hoosiers don’t go down without throwing a few swings on the way. Tonight, that was enough to get right back on top. It’s an edge they’ll need in tournament play.