It was clear right off the bat there was a different energy to the IU women’s basketball team Wednesday night following Saturday's tight road win at Michigan State.
Led by senior guard Tyra Buss, who finished with a game-high 27 points, IU was running all around the Wisconsin defense en route to a 69-55 victory against the Badgers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The win marked IU’s third conference victory of the season and second-straight win in Big Ten play.
The Hoosiers began the game on a 9-4 run with energetic defense and fast-paced offense.
“We really wanted to play good defense and let that lead to offense,” senior forward Amanda Cahill said. “We’ve been emphasizing getting off to quick starts and forcing other teams to call timeouts instead of that happening to us.”
The Hoosiers did just that and had a 21-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
One play in particular in the first quarter ignited both the crowd and IU’s on-court play.
During the play, junior forward Kym Royster set a backdoor screen for freshman guard Jaelynn Penn to run to the basket. The screen freed Penn up, and with impeccable timing, Buss lobbed a pass up over the defense. Penn caught the ball in mid-air and finished the basket in one fluid motion.
After the play, Wisconsin called a timeout, and Buss and Penn were ecstatic.
“The coaches looked at the tape and noticed it worked last year for us,” Buss said. “So, we knew they played that 2-3 zone and knew it would be open, so we practiced it, and it worked tonight.”
That same play was attempted again in the third quarter, and even though it didn’t go as smoothly as it did in the first, Penn still caught it, came down and got fouled on the way back up. She made both free throws.
These plays weren’t in the Hoosiers’ repertoire earlier this season, but as the season has progressed, the team has grown.
The alley-oop play is just one example of how the team has grown.
Another example is the composure the Hoosiers showed throughout the game. Wisconsin constantly switched its defense from man to zone several times. Those kinds of defensive adjustments have caused problems for the Hoosiers in the past, but not in this game.
“I think our growth has been huge,” Cahill said. “I think getting all these games under our belt and playing as a collective unit has been really beneficial to us.”
More than half of the Hoosiers’ points were scored by their two seniors. Buss and Cahill combined for 49 points.
When the second half began, the two scored the first 13 points of the third quarter.
“It’s great to have two seniors like Tyra and Amanda,” IU Coach Teri Moren said. “They showed up in a big way today. In timely moments when it seemed like Wisconsin was making a run at us, one of those two kids would do something big.”
In the fourth quarter, the Badgers cut the lead to just six points.
Buss responded with a layup to push the lead to back up to eight, and when Wisconsin scored again on the other end to make it six again, Buss came back and drained a three-pointer.
Then, Cahill scored the next two baskets to push the lead to 13 points with 2:22 to go, and it was smooth sailing for the Hoosiers the rest of the way.
With 2:49 left, Cahill grabbed her sixth rebound of the game, which gave her 1,000 career rebounds. She is only the third player to accomplish the milestone in program history.
Moren said no one deserves it more than her, and Cahill said she didn’t even know she accomplished it until after the game, but that she is happy to have done so.
This game began a four-game homestand for the Hoosiers that will continue on Saturday against Rutgers.
“It’s really nice to be back in front of our home crowd,” Buss said. “It was great to get this Big Ten win, we’ve got two in a row now, so we are just going to keep it going.”
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