BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Senior Amber Jackson said she couldn’t even hear herself breathe – the 2,786 fans in Anderson Arena sounded more like 10,000.
Despite the deafening screams, the Hoosiers captured a 75-67 victory against Bowling Green on Thursday night in the third round of the WNIT.
The Hoosiers (21-10) controlled the first four minutes as they got out to a 10-2 lead. Senior Whitney Thomas, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Hoosiers, said the team talked before the game about getting off to a good start.
“We really stressed at the beginning of the game that the first four minutes of the game were going to be very important,” she said. “We came out with a lot of energy and pressured them, and we hit some good shots.”
Bowling Green (29-5) trailed by as many as 12, but cut the Hoosiers’ lead to five midway through the first half. Just when it looked like the Falcons could go on a big run to end the half, Jackson stepped up and knocked down a baseline jumper with 8 seconds left. Jackson was fouled on the play and converted the free throw to give IU a 36-25 halftime lead.
IU coach Felisha Legette-Jack said Jackson, who led the Hoosiers with 17 points,
played well in the closing moments of the half.
“That just shows her focus,” Legette-Jack said. “Amber is very focused lately, and she knows she has to play until the end.”
The second half was similar to the first as the Hoosiers jumped out to a 55-45 lead at the 10:15 mark. It took less than three minutes for the Falcons to trim the gap to just two.
Then junior point guard Jamie Braun made an important decision.
Braun told Legette-Jack to put freshmen Ashlee Mells into the game to give IU a spark. Legette-Jack said she trusted her player.
“You listen to your point guard,” she said. “This is not about me making all the decisions. It’s about us making decisions that are best for our team.”
The decision paid off as Mells connected on a high-arching 3-pointer to extend the Hoosiers’ lead to 60-53. The Falcons could never get closer than within five points the rest of the game as IU hit its free throws to seal it.
The Hoosiers will now battle Illinois State in the quarterfinals of the tournament at 3 p.m. Sundayt at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill.
Jackson said she likes playing in environments like the one in which the Hoosiers played against Bowling Green.
“It was really exciting, actually,” she said. “I would like for the fans to be for us, but I loved it, and they have a great fan base here.”
The coaches on the opposing benches, after playing an intense game, had plenty of good things to say about each other’s team.
Bowling Green coach Curt Miller, who worked with Legette-Jack from 1994 to 1998 when they were both assistant coaches at Syracuse, said he wishes the Hoosiers the best in the tournament.
“I’m not only Felisha’s friend and former colleague,” Miller said, “I’m her biggest fan, and I truly hope they go win this.”
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