It’s been four years – four good years – and those four years were celebrated on Saturday as the IU women’s basketball team played its final regular season home game in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers won the game over Nebraska 83-75, giving them their seventh-straight win, but that wasn’t even the most celebrated part of the evening. The announced crowd of 5,258 celebrated the historic careers of seniors Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill.
Ever since Nov. 15, 2014, when Buss and Cahill made their debuts at IU against Gardner-Webb and led the way in scoring for the Hoosiers with 18 and 15 points, respectively, it didn’t take long to realize that the future was bright.
Four years later, many argue they are the two best players to ever play for the program.
After their final regular season home game, IU Coach Teri Moren each gave one word to describe the two.
For Buss, it was her ultra-competitiveness.
“She just has a thirst for competition,” Moren said. “I’m not a firm believer that you can make kids ultra-competitive the way Tyra is. She’s just wired unlike a lot of players. There’s never been a time in these four years where I’ve had to tell her to play harder.”
In this game, IU needed every bit of Buss's competitive nature to secure the victory. Buss scored 37 points, which is one point away from her career-high, dished out five assists and went a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line.
Despite her impressive showing, she faced a scare with four and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter. As she boxed out Nebraska senior guard Jasmine Cincore, the two locked arms and as Cincore leaped for the rebound, she came down on Buss’ upper back area, causing Buss to hit the floor.
She laid there for about a minute before getting up and walking to the tunnel holding her right shoulder. It was no more than a minute later until she ran back and checked herself into the game to drain three 3-pointers and give IU a more comfortable lead at 61-55.
“I knew I was going to get back up,” Buss said. “Once I went through the exercise and strengthened it up a bit it felt better, and I was good enough to come back into the game.”
Moren said she wasn’t worried because she knew it’d take a lot more to keep Buss out of that game, or any game.
As for Cahill, Moren’s word was intelligence.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever coach a smarter player,” Moren said. “Just how she understands the game and the game plan and how she can execute it. She can make plays that are not by design but from pure instinct, and because of that, she has helped us win a lot of ball games.”
Cahill's basketball savviness was another factor in the win today. Her name was everywhere in the box sheet. She had 16 points, 10 rebounds, a career-high seven blocks, three assists and two steals.
Despite struggling from behind the three-point line, going 3-10, Cahill hit the ones that mattered.
With 3:11 to go in the third quarter, the two teams were knotted at 49. Cahill hit a big three off a pass from Buss to force Nebraska to call a timeout.
Then, with 2:27 left to go in the fourth quarter, IU only had a three-point lead, but Buss again found Cahill in the corner where she splashed another triple and extended the Hoosier lead to six.
“It was just really awesome getting the win,” Cahill said. “That was our main focus.”
Whether it was hitting timely 3-pointers, ripping the ball out of the hands of women three inches taller than her or rejecting shots, Cahill’s fingerprints were left all over McCracken Court in her final regular season home game.
The two were honored both before and after the game with framed jerseys, video packages and plenty of standing ovations. But to them, that seventh consecutive win was the most important part.
Even though both Buss and Cahill said they were sad to play for the last time at home, they both said the next most important thing is the eighth straight win looming Tuesday night at Minnesota.
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