The IU women’s basketball team needed its veterans more than ever during its 72-68 victory at Yale on Thursday.
After going into halftime trailing the Bulldogs 35-29, the Hoosiers looked like they were in danger of ending their non-conference schedule with yet another tough loss.
That’s when senior guard Tyra Buss and senior forward Amanda Cahill, along with junior forward Kym Royster stepped up.
After a first half in which the IU offense could never get a good rhythm going, IU Coach Teri Moren needed her veteran leaders to take over.
“I really just challenged their pride at the half,” Moren said. “I told them the schemes don’t matter. At the end of the day, it really comes down to how gritty and tough you are.”
At the beginning of the third quarter, Buss and Cahill did so in a resounding fashion.
IU’s seniors led a 10-2 run to open the second half with Buss and Cahill scoring all ten of those points. When Yale tried to shut them down by clogging up the middle of their zone and putting pressure on the guards at the top of the key, the two continued to facilitate, allowing them to find open teammates for a flurry of threes.
After going just one of four from behind the arc in the first half combined, the Hoosiers went five of nine in the third and took a 51-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
“I thought we had moments where everybody stepped up and hit timely shots,” Moren said. “We just have to get better defensively and not trade baskets.”
Behind the resilient play of Yale seniors Tamara Simpson and Jen Berkowitz and freshman Ellen Margaret Andrews, the Bulldogs jumped out to an 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter, regaining the lead.
That’s when it was Royster’s turn to lead the way.
IU started to attack the post by dumping it off to Royster down low. She scored seven quick points with a series of strong post moves to help the Hoosiers regain the lead yet again.
After Royster’s dominant stretch, IU was able to hold on from there despite a late scare from the Bulldogs. After freshman guard Bendu Yeaney’s two free throws trickled through the net with one second remaining, they had secured the much-needed win.
Even though the Hoosiers struggled to stop Simpson, who finished with a career high 31 points, it wasn’t enough for Yale to counter IU’s balanced scoring attack.
Buss led the way with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists, while Cahill had 16 points along with seven rebounds and four assists.
Royster was next with 15 points and six rebounds of her own and Yeaney followed that up with 14 points and eight rebounds. She also went 8-9 from the free throw line.
After going 0-2 in the West Palm Invitational in Florida in which they were dominated by No. 16-ranked Missouri and lost an overtime heart-breaker to Virginia, Thursday was a much-needed victory for Moren and her team as they head into Big Ten play at home against Michigan State on December 28.
“Our non-conference schedule was set up intentionally because we wanted it to be challenging because we know how good the Big Ten is,” Moren said. “We’ve been battle-tested. The idea behind that was so we can be ready for some of the situations we’ve already been in.”
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