The IU women’s basketball team may have wished Christmas came a few days later.
If it did, the Hoosiers might have asked Santa Claus for a few jump shots to fall in their conference-opener against Michigan State.
However, the rims of Assembly Hall were not in the gift-giving Christmas spirit as the Hoosiers struggled to get any shots to fall in their 68-46 loss to the Spartans on Thursday.
IU came back from its short Christmas break to shoot just 16-55 from the field and start Big Ten play with a disappointing loss.
In the first half, the Hoosiers handled Michigan State’s 2-2-1 press by only committing three turnovers. But the Spartans’ press and half-court zone slowed down IU’s offense enough to force them into one bad shot after another near the end of the shot clock.
The poor shot selection resulted in 13-28 shooting from the field and 2-8 shooting from behind the arc in the first half.
Michigan State took advantage of the Hoosiers’ miscommunication on offense and took a 31-17 lead into the locker room.
“I think we were just being slow and sluggish,” senior guard Tyra Buss said. “In the first half, we weren’t getting into plays fast enough. We were just moving slow to get into our spots instead of quickly getting there and setting up into a play.”
In the second half, IU managed to get a short run going at the beginning of the third quarter. The Hoosiers came out of the locker room looking more aggressive offensively, getting the Spartans’ lead down to as little as eight points by going on a 12-6 run on 5-7 shooting to open the quarter.
However, Michigan State responded. The Spartans reignited their defense and eventually outscored the Hoosiers in the quarter, taking a 49-33 lead into the final frame.
There, they continued to pour it on behind the 14 second-half points from senior Branndais Agee, who finished as Michigan State’s leading scorer with 21 points.
Even though IU could never get anything going offensively, it wasn’t the only aspect of their performance that ultimately doomed them.
IU Coach Teri Moren said her team’s defense was just as disappointing.
Michigan State’s post players, led by former IU commit Jenna Allen of Bedford, Indiana, proved to be match-up nightmares as they were all able to stretch the floor by combining a repertoire of post moves with an ability to knock down open shots around the perimeter.
“When you get behind the player in the post, you’re an easy target,” Moren said. “It’s not about finding the right match-up, it’s about doing your job and doing it correctly and we didn’t do that correctly tonight.”
IU’s offensive output still ended up being devastating. A lack of movement in the half court resulted in hardly any good looks for the Hoosiers.
Buss, IU’s leading scorer, was held to just eight points on 2-11 shooting from the field and 1-7 shooting from three-point range.
Buss wasn’t the only Hoosier that struggled. Freshman guard Bendu Yeaney finished with a team-high 13 points but still shot just 4-13 from the field. Senior forward Amanda Cahill was next with 12 points on 4-10 shooting while freshman guard Jaelynn Penn had nine points on 4-11 shooting.
“We just have to hit shots,” Moren said. “At the end of the day, when you’re not hitting shots, you have to lock in defensively and with a higher level of toughness. It comes down to whether or not you’re a competitor and we didn’t have that tonight.”
In another loss for Moren’s squad that left more questions than answers, the Hoosiers will have to respond quickly as they prepare to travel to Columbus, Ohio, to play No. 12 Ohio State on Dec. 31.
“We’re going to spend some time in discussion about how we can continue to get better,” Moren said. “This one is really disappointing though, but I think it’s a great reminder for us of what has to happen.”
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