The IU women’s basketball team's performance during their 78-73 overtime victory over Northwestern on Sunday showed what the Hoosiers could do when finally given some increased rest time before a game.
Coming off a stretch in its schedule in which IU endured countless quick turnarounds that saw them entrenched in close battles with some of the Big Ten’s best teams, the Hoosiers finally got a longer rest period leading up to Sunday’s contest.
After getting more than a week to prepare themselves for the Wildcats, the Hoosiers came out of the gates firing on all cylinders.
The Hoosiers’ energy level was at a maximum, their communication on defense was loud and constant and the players seemed loose, with some even cracking smiles on the court on occasion.
It led to IU jumping out to a 20-8 lead after the first quarter and seemingly in control moving forward.
However, even with the added energy, the Hoosiers couldn’t keep the Wildcats from clawing back.
Despite trailing IU by as much as 15 points in the final quarter, Northwestern managed to battle its way into overtime behind freshman guard Lindsey Pulliam’s career-high 33 points.
But it wasn’t enough to stifle Coach Teri Moren’s squad.
It may not have been the prettiest way to close out a game and it might have made Hoosier fans’ hearts skip a beat, but IU showed it had the grit to close out games when they needed to the most.
“I’m really proud of the way our kids handled themselves in overtime,” Moren said. “We came up with some big stops when we had to.”
There were plenty of times when IU’s hopes of securing its fourth straight victory could have gone down the drain.
It could have been the back-to-back turnovers by senior guard Tyra Buss late in the fourth quarter that led to Northwestern tying it up and forcing overtime. Or it could have been freshman guard Jaelynn Penn’s wide-open potential game-sealing three that fell short in the fourth.
Through all the setbacks, IU remained under control and found ways to counter anything Northwestern threw at them. Quality looks were constantly created from the Hoosiers’ ball movement offensively, and they were once again efficient from the free throw line, going 19-24 on the day. Key free throws down the stretch in overtime also helped them secure the victory as well.
“We got some good looks and some of them didn’t always go down,” Moren said. “We only turned it over ten times and had 16 assists on 27 field goals. I think there was a lot out there left.”
While Buss dominated the first half by scoring 16 of her season-high 31 points to counter Pulliam’s big day, the Hoosiers also found some success going inside and relying on senior forward Amanda Cahill and junior forward Kym Royster many times in the second half.
Cahill and Royster combined for 34 points and 10 rebounds on the day and attacked Northwestern’s interior defense with a lethal inside-out game. They were able to find each other down low multiple times out of the high post to get some easy and vital baskets down the stretch.
It all came together as part of an overall resilient effort from the Hoosiers. It also helped them earn another big win that has gotten them back to a .500 record on the year at 12-12 overall and generating some momentum as their Big Ten schedule slowly starts to ease up after the rough start.
“Hopefully, we learned some really good lessons about how to hang on to a lead from this game,” Moren said. “But we still have to get much better as we continue to play in the Big Ten.”
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