With two and a half minutes to go in the second quarter of IU's game against Chattanooga on Monday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, it looked like senior guard Tyra Buss was taking over again, as usual.
With her team down by one, Buss drove into the paint, scored a layup and drew a foul for a chance at a three-point play. After converting it with a made free throw, she later found senior forward Amanda Cahill in transition for one of her 10 assists on the night.
By the time Buss’ two-minute exhibition was over, the Hoosiers took a 27-23 lead into halftime and looked like they were on their way to distancing themselves from their opponents after a sluggish first half.
Then the third quarter happened.
In a dreadful four-minute stretch, the Hoosiers turned it over on four straight possessions, and the Mocs responded by converting five buckets before freshman guard Keyanna Warthen was able to hit a jumper, and IU Coach Teri Moren called a timeout.
“I think we were just being careless with the ball and that’s something we’ve been working on,” Buss said. “In those first four minutes of the half, we really wanted to bring our energy out and get the second half started off really well and we just didn’t do that.”
Moren said she was disappointed with her team’s energy level not only in the third quarter but in the game as a whole.
“You can talk all you want at halftime about the adjustments that need to be made,” Moren said. “It’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to do it.”
Just like that, IU trailed 33-29 in an eight-point swing for Chattanooga.
The Hoosiers tried to claw their way back into the game with a few nice runs in the third quarter, but Chattanooga wouldn't give in and took a 45-42 lead into the final quarter.
In the fourth, it was more of the same as the Mocs came out firing again, scoring the first six points of the period. IU got within two points with only nine seconds to go but never managed to regain its halftime lead.
When Buss’ three pointer rimmed out with two seconds to go, Chattanooga had secured a 64-61 upset victory, handing the Hoosiers their first loss of the season.
A lack of depth proved to be an Achilles heel for IU, especially when the Hoosiers were dealt with the news that freshman guard Bendu Yeaney would sit out the game for precautionary reasons with a minor facial injury.
Foul trouble didn’t help matters as freshman guard Jaelynn Penn fouled out in the fourth quarter. It left IU’s depth even thinner and led to extended minutes for sophomore forward Bre Wickware and freshman center Linsey Marchese, but nothing seemed to work for Moren’s squad.
On a team with only 10 eligible players, any player being out could prove detrimental.
“I don’t know if it would have made a difference tonight if we would have had Bendu,” Moren said. “I anticipate her being back Friday in California.”
Buss and Cahill still managed to record double-doubles, and Buss finished with 17 points and 10 assists, and Cahill had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Junior forward Kym Royster contributed 16 points of her own, but Moren said she was left wanting more from her veterans as her team committed 16 turnovers compared to just 13 assists on the night.
“I don’t want to make an excuse," Moren said. "We didn’t show up tonight ready to play. I thought it was everybody. There wasn’t one person that stood out.”
Despite the disappointing result, Moren said she hopes that the loss will be a learning experience for her young team moving forward as they head into a holiday tournament in California on Friday and Saturday.
“Hopefully it’s a wake-up call," Moren said. "Our schedule isn’t going to get any easier. Hopefully they learned something, and it stinks but sometimes you learn more from losses than you do from wins.”
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