With only seven seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied 71-71 between IU and Western Kentucky, it wasn't a secret which Hoosier would get the ball during IU's final possession of the game.
Following a Western Kentucky timeout, IU senior guard Tyra Buss received an in-bounds pass from senior forward Amanda Cahill, split a pair of Lady Topper defenders, drove into the lane and made a layup while being fouled.
Although she missed the subsequent free throw and Western Kentucky had a chance to win the game with a 3-point attempt in the dying seconds, Buss' heroics remained the difference in IU's 73-71 win Friday night at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
"I just kind of saw a lane to the basket, and I took it," Buss said. "Fortunately, it went in for me."
Buss led all IU players in the contest with 22 points, but it was a collective performance from the Hoosiers that earned the team its third win of the season.
IU had four players score in double figures compared to just two for Western Kentucky. The Hoosiers also dominated on the offensive glass, securing 16 offensive rebounds, more than double the number — seven — posted by the Lady Toppers.
This included seven offensive rebounds from Cahill and five from junior forward Kym Royster.
"That was a big emphasis," Royster said. "So just trying to go in there and just be aggressive in every aspect, I think that is kind of what motivated me to get in there and get us those extra possessions."
Those extra possessions proved crucial for the Hoosiers in the end. It was the team's first victory by single digits since Feb. 22, when it defeated Iowa in double overtime.
IU Coach Teri Moren said she was encouraged by her team's composure down the stretch, especially from freshman guards Bendu Yeaney, Keyanna Warthen and Jaelynn Penn.
"I think one of the things that I'm finding more and more each day about our freshmen is that they're best when they can just lay their ears back and just kind of go," Moren said. "As much as I want to be organized, there has to be a level of trust that I have in those guys to just go out and make plays."
Organization on offense was lacking for IU to start the game.
The Hoosiers trailed 24-19 after the first quarter in part because of poor transition defense. Shots weren't falling at the other end for Buss and company, but Moren said IU's players were falling into a habit of getting back in transition to guard the corresponding players on Western Kentucky instead of just any open Lady Topper.
"We don't want to give up open shots," Moren said. "Open shots beat you. Mismatches don't."
Those defensive issues were rectified as the second quarter progressed, as the Hoosiers allowed just 12 points in the second period. However, IU could also only score 12 points on offense in the same time frame.
The five-point halftime deficit the Hoosiers faced was quickly erased in the third quarter. A 17-5 IU run to begin the second half featured 13 points combined from the trio of Buss, Cahill and Royster.
The lead grew to be as large as 15 points, but Western Kentucky chipped away at the deficit until the game was tied once again at 68 with 2:37 to go in the fourth quarter.
Western Kentucky went up by three, 71-68 with 1:39 to play, but Buss would go on to score the final five points of the game. A 3-pointer by Buss immediately erased the deficit with just over a minute to play, before she won the game with her late layup.
The victory not only preserves IU's perfect start to the season at 3-0, but also earned the Hoosiers a bit of revenge after Western Kentucky dealt IU its first loss of last season in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
"We had that in the back of our minds," Buss said. "We lost that game. We didn't play very well at their place. We didn't want them to come in here and take the win on our home floor."
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