INDIANAPOLIS — With a minute to go in the IU women’s basketball team’s Big Ten tournament matchup with Maryland on Friday, senior guard Tyra Buss was taken out of the game.
The Hoosiers were down six and needed to foul. Buss, with four personal fouls, was one away from fouling out. She couldn’t help her team out. She was helpless.
With her teammates frantically trying to send the Terrapins to the free throw line, Buss waited anxiously on the sidelines. She held her head in her hands so she wouldn’t have to stressfully watch whatever played out on the court. As she was itching to get back out on the floor to just try to make a difference, her legs were nervously bouncing up and down.
They were the same legs that had played nearly every second of basketball leading up to that point. They were the same legs that had played the entire 60 minutes of IU’s quadruple overtime victory over Michigan State the night before.
They were the same legs that had carried her to averaging a nation-most 40.3 minutes per game and they were the same ones that solemnly strolled off the floor of Bankers Life Fieldhouse after her team eventually fell to Maryland 67-54.
Her legs had seen a lot of Big Ten games. But this was their last one.
A couple of cold shooting streaks in the second half were eventually too much for IU to bounce back from down the stretch. Exhausted from playing in the longest game in Big Ten Tournament history the night before, the Hoosiers hit a wall late.
For once, it was a wall they couldn’t break through.
“We really didn’t want to think about the night before,” Buss said. “We played 60 minutes but we just wanted to keep telling ourselves we weren’t tired.”
IU kept it close in the first half behind the stellar play of senior forward Amanda Cahill. Cahill, who was coming off a career-high 38 points against Michigan State, looked to be on her way to another impressive night early on.
When her 3-pointer tied the game at 25 with a minute and a half to go in the second quarter, she was already up to 11 points on the night. However, on the very next possession, she was called for her third personal foul, sending her to the bench and stopping any of her momentum.
The player that was mainly responsible for getting her in foul trouble, sophomore guard Kaila Charles, proved to be a handful for IU’s defense in the first half. She scored 14 points and dished out 4 assists, leading the Terrapins to a 29-27 lead going into halftime.
“Charles is just really fast and athletic, so you have to give her a step on defense,” Cahill said. “They kicked it out to her a few times and she hit some open jump shots. We just didn’t handle our rotations very well.”
In the third, the Hoosiers managed to slow Charles down and turn the game into a back-and-forth battle for most of the quarter. Freshman guard Bendu Yeaney was switched on to Charles and held her to just four points on 1-4 shooting and forced her into two turnovers in the third.
After a number of lead changes, IU hit the wall with four minutes to go in the quarter. They went 1-7 from the field and Maryland took advantage by closing out the third on a 10-3 run and taking their largest lead of 48-40 into the final frame.
The Hoosiers struggled to gain any ground until five minutes left to play. Coming out of a timeout, IU pulled off a five-point swing on the Terrapins after Buss nailed a three from the corner and Cahill made two free throws after being fouled while setting the screen. It got their team back within three points at 54-51.
“We drew a play up and Amanda set a really great screen,” Buss said. “The defender was pushing Amanda and I just had happened to hit the three.”
That’s when the wall re-emerged.
Buckets were hard to find for the Hoosiers from there. They finished out the game by shooting just 1-9, leading to a 13-3 Maryland run to close it out.
As Buss and Cahill were subbed out with just seconds remaining, the game was out of reach. The seniors’ hopes of a Big Ten tourney run had ended at the hands of the No. 17 team in the country.
IU Coach Teri Moren said her team’s defense down the stretch just wasn’t enough to slow the Terrapins down.
“We struggled trying to figure out how to guard Kaila Charles especially,” Moren said. “Maryland is a well-balanced team and we knew that going in. We tried to slow the pace down and try to take away their transition as much as we could.”
Cahill finished with a team-high 17 points while Buss added 13 and Yeaney finished with 10 of her own.
With the cold finish, the legs finally gave out on Buss and her teammates.
However, Buss, ever the competitor, wasn’t looking for a cop out when it was all said and done.
“I thought we may have been a little fatigued, especially toward the end, just because of the minutes that we had logged,” Buss said. “But we can’t use that as an excuse.”
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