Adrenaline. Pure, unadulterated adrenaline.
That’s the sensation IU senior guard Tyra Buss said she felt as she jogged out of the west side tunnel of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall after going down with a shoulder injury in the third quarter of IU’s 83-75 victory over Nebraska on Saturday.
“Once I started playing again, my adrenaline was rushing,” Buss said. “With the energy from the crowd and my teammates, I felt fine.”
Buss’ return after being off the court for less than a minute drew one of the biggest roars from the Hoosier crowd on the day. It was also the defining moment in what could only be described as a perfect senior day sendoff for Buss and her fellow senior forward Amanda Cahill.
As Buss and Cahill had both said throughout the week heading into their big day, their team’s seventh straight win alone would be enough to make senior day perfect for the two ultra-competitors.
However, it would take two major performances from both of them to take down the Cornhuskers who came into Assembly Hall at third place in the Big Ten standings, while the Hoosiers sat at eighth.
In the first quarter, the Hoosiers had to battle through the emotions produced by some pre-game festivities honoring the seniors at half-court. The Hoosiers found themselves in a back and forth fight early on after one quarter as the two teams were tied at 19 points apiece. Fittingly, Buss and Cahill came out firing on all cylinders, combining for 16 of those points.
In the second quarter, Buss managed to have her hand in nearly everything IU did offensively by either scoring or assisting on 14 of the team’s 17 second quarter points. Unsurprisingly, the remaining three points belonged to Cahill who knocked in one of her three 3-pointers on the day.
It was enough to give the Hoosiers a 36-32 lead heading into halftime with Buss and Cahill still carrying the load with a combined 28 first half points.
In the third, after opening the second half still going back and forth with the Cornhuskers, the collective breaths of the Hoosier faithful were held with four and a half minutes remaining in the period.
After getting her arm and shoulder awkwardly twisted up while blocking out Nebraska senior guard Jasmine Cincore, Buss laid sprawled out on the floor in pain. As she was helped off the floor by an IU trainer, the status of the star guard, who had scored 22 points already up to that point, remained up in the air.
Every wince of pain from Buss’ face as she walked off the court enhanced the possibility of the senior day dream sequence turning into a nightmare for the Hoosiers. But IU Coach Teri Moren said she wasn’t as worried as some.
“I’ve seen that so many times,” Moren said. “It would take more than a bump for her to stay down. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind it was just a matter of time before she popped back up and gave me the nod that she was good to go.”
With her return less than a minute later, Buss received a hero’s welcome from the crowd. The Hoosiers and Cornhuskers were gridlocked at 49 points each when she re-entered the ball game, but that soon changed.
Soon after, Buss drove baseline, drew multiple Nebraska defenders inside and found a wide-open Cahill at the top of the key by somehow whipping a pass through a mob of Cornhuskers. Cahill proceeded to nail the open three and break the tie.
“It was a really great pass by Tyra,” Cahill said. “I thought it was a little special because it was our senior day and I feel like that’s something we do really well is being able to always know where each other are on the floor.”
Buss followed that up by shaking off whatever rust might have accumulated during her time off the court and splashed her next three 3-pointers to help give the Hoosiers a 61-55 lead heading into the final frame.
From there, Buss and Cahill continued to lead the charge to help IU secure the 83-75 victory. By the time they were taken out with 25 seconds left to the sound of yet another loud ovation from the crowd, Buss had finished the day with 37 points, just one point shy of her career high of 38, while Cahill finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks.
Freshman guard Jaelynn Penn quietly contributed 21 points of her own.
When they were honored with a tribute video on the Assembly Hall big screen after the game, Buss and Cahill were able to let the emotions finally seep out in what proved to be two vintage performances from two IU legends.
“It was really awesome getting the win, that was our main focus,” Cahill said. “Just getting to celebrate a little bit after, watch the videos and just have us all be together was really special.”
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