IU women's basketball coach Kathi Bennett returned to the sidelines Sunday for her team's 74-52 victory over Northwestern at Assembly Hall. Her return added an obvious emotional uplift to a rebounding team that has won six of its last nine games.\nWearing a black halo device, Bennett sat on the bench for the majority of the game, turning her torso rather than her restricted neck to watch plays. She did stand during timeouts and often wrote on a notepad. She will continue to wear the halo device that supports her broken neck for another four to six weeks and is expected to coach the rest of the season.\n"It meant a lot to me to be able to be back on the sidelines," Bennett said. "It's so much a part of my life. They're the reason why I had the energy to get back. They uplifted me and encouraged me. I really needed to (return) for myself. I felt good just to contribute a little bit."\nBennett declined to comment about the accident.\nAssociate head coach Trish Betthauser continued to lead the Hoosiers for the fourth consecutive game, shouting commands because yelling is painful to Bennett. The team is 3-1 under Betthauser.\nBennett attended the Hoosiers' practice this past week and even gave her players and assistants advice while she stayed at Bloomington Hospital Feb. 8-14.\nThe second-year coach is recovering from breaking the second neck vertebra in a Feb. 8 car accident in Bloomington. Bennett's car struck another vehicle in a near head-on collision on 17th Street at 9 a.m. The passengers in the other vehicle were not severely injured. Bennett was not wearing a seatbelt. She did not suffer spinal cord damage and does not have to undergo surgery.\nSunday proved a far cheerier day. Using a microphone, an emotional Bennett told the 1,724-person crowd about her five seniors during a post-game ceremony. At one point, she said senior point guard Heather Cassady has always been willing to talk to Bennett on the phone during difficult times and displays a tremendous heart.\n"Sometimes, you can see that heart pumping -- blood, guts and all," she said, drawing laughter from fans.\nPlayers said Bennett's return added to the Senior Day's splendor.\n"It's always great to have her there for support," senior forward Erin McGinnis said. "She wasn't as active as she usually is, but every time we came to a timeout, she always had something to say. Just having her for support, the backbone, was great."\nSenior guard Tara Jones said it was only fitting to have Bennett back for a game celebrating her five years at IU. Bennett has been the coach at IU since March of 2000, guiding the seniors to their best season record, 20-11, last year.\n"It's been a pleasure having her as a coach," Jones said. "I don't think I could have played my senior game without having her there. She's always positive, very constructive. We need that, and she's always been there to provide that for us.\n"Tonight, it wasn't any different. It's great to have her"
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