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IU advances to 3rd round of WNIT



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IU players storm the court with coach Felisha Legette-Jack, center, after senior Whitney Thomas hit a shot with 0.2 seconds on the clock to win against Dayton in the second round of the Women's NIT Sunday at Assembly Hall. IU won 59-57. James Brosher Buy Photos

Senior Whitney Thomas put her volleyball days at Bloomington North to good use Sunday on the basketball court.

Thomas tipped in a half-court, inbound pass from senior Kim Roberson with 0.2 seconds left to give the Hoosiers (20-10) a 59-57 victory against Dayton (21-14) at Assembly Hall in the second round of the WNIT.

VIDEO: IU wins with last-second shot

Thomas, a left-handed player who made her game-winning tip on the right side of the basket, said the play developed after a backscreen forced a guard to switch to her as she went up.

“Kim threw it perfectly, so I just jumped,” Thomas said. “I didn’t see a player in front of me at all. All I saw was the ball and the basket.” 

The game did not end without controversy.

Dayton forward Kendel Ross hit a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left to tie the game at 57. Overtime looked like a reality after the Hoosiers gave up a nine-point lead in the last four minutes of the game.

But before Thomas’ tip in, the Hoosiers had another shot at tying the game – kind of.
Roberson took the ball with .6 seconds remaining, but as she shot the ball, which missed the basket, an official blew the play dead, thinking the game was over.

The official mistakenly thought Roberson had to tip the ball in and could not catch and shoot, since only 0.6 second remained. With 0.3 second to go the ball must be tipped in, according to NCAA scoring and time regulations. After a short conference, the officials gave the Hoosiers the ball at half court with 0.2 seconds left.

IU coach Felisha Legette-Jack said the play happened exactly as she drew it up, and she gave a special thank you after the game.  “I want to thank all of the Bloomington North volleyball coaching for helping develop Whitney’s jumping ability,” she said. “If you look at that play, it was like everybody was in slow motion, and she was shoulders above everyone else.”

The pass came from Roberson to Thomas, the two seniors who have stuck it out since their freshman year – playing for three different coaches in the process.

The Hoosiers will now play Bowling Green in the third round of the tournament Thursday in Bowling Green, Ohio. 

Although the Roberson-to-Thomas pass eventually won the game, many players contributed to the victory.

Junior point guard Jamie Braun led the Hoosiers with 16 points. Also scoring in double figures was senior Amber Jackson, who had 14 points. Sophomore Jori Davis scored 11, Thomas added 14 rebounds with her nine points and Roberson played a complete game with seven points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

The Hoosiers have had some trouble playing with leads during the season, and Sunday’s game was no different. A 53-44 lead evaporated in a span of 3:47 to a tie at 57.

Jackson said she usually does not think about other games while on the court, but she said she thought about last year’s 86-81 WNIT overtime loss to James Madison after Dayton tied the game.

Jackson said the team was sad to miss the NCAA tournament, but she said she and her teammates are not letting that affect their play.

“We are upset and disappointed that we did not make the NCAA tournament, but we are not going to hang our heads,” she said. “We still have a lot of games left to play.”

Legette-Jack, in her seven years as a head coach, had never posted 20 wins in a season until this one. She credited Thomas and Roberson for what they have done for the program and the team overall.

“To receive that 20-win season on the backs of the two kids that started this whole thing off – it just makes my heart beat a little harder,” she said. “I’m so proud of this team, and we are not done yet.”

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