NORMAL, Ill. – As the final seconds ticked off the clock, senior Kim Roberson found herself in an unfamiliar spot.
Roberson and her three fellow seniors all sat on the bench, ending their season and IU careers in defeat.
The highly contentious game saw six ties and 12 lead changes before the Hoosiers (21-11) finally fell 66-55 to Illinois State (27-7) on Sunday in the quarterfinals of the WNIT.
Roberson led the Hoosiers back from a 10-point first-half deficit to a 29-26 halftime lead with 11 points.
She left the game for good when she fouled out with 3:10 to go.
IU coach Felisha Legette-Jack said Roberson’s absence hurt the team.
“Kim is a kid that you need on the court at the end of the game,” she said. “I think we all know that. To replace that is very difficult, but we certainly tried to makeshift that a little bit.”
Fatigue might have played a part in IU’s loss. After playing Bowling Green on Thursday night, the Hoosiers did not have much time to rest before going on the road again and enduring a time change.
Legette-Jack said she did not understand why IU had to make such an abrupt transition from Bowling Green, Ohio, to Normal, Ill.
“We didn’t have any legs to move left and right today,” Legette-Jack said. “Is that an excuse? Usually, I don’t give excuses, but if you spare me this one. I really believe our kids were icing up and trying to get ready, but we ran out of gas against a really great team.”
Junior point guard Jamie Braun, who led the Hoosiers with 15 points, said her team shouldn’t have needed any extra incentive for the biggest game of its season.
“For me, I personally was a little fatigued in the second half,” she said. “It really shouldn’t matter. We should be able to dig deep. It’s the tournament. It’s March. We are playing. We shouldn’t have to worry about if we are tired or not.”
They lacked the energy needed to fight for rebounds, trailing in that category 48-35 and shooting just 30.6 percent from the field.
Illinois State had 23 points from their bench, but the only points from the pine for IU came when freshman Lindsay Enterline hit a 15-foot jump shot at the final buzzer.
The sound marked the end of a season full of inconsistencies.
The Hoosiers had a nine-game winning streak early in the year and started conference play winning seven of their first eight.
Then IU went on a four-game losing streak near the season’s end.
A disappointing end to the Big Ten Tournament followed, as IU lost 68-64 to Purdue, leaving it to speculate whether it would partake in the NCAA tournament.
Next year the Hoosiers will be without senior Whitney Thomas, only the second in school history to collect more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
They will also be without Roberson, the IU record book’s all-time steals leader.
Senior Amber Jackson realized her career at IU was coming to an end as she sat on the bench in the closing seconds of the game.
“As the clock was going down to its last seconds, I was sad that I knew – as a senior – that is it for me and this is my last game,” she said.
Legette-Jack had her most successful year at the helm of the Hoosiers, carrying IU to 21 wins for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
She said it will be hard to replace such a talented and hard-working senior class.
“They just stayed focused,” she said. “Normal people can’t do that. These kids are abnormal in a great way. I don’t know if were going to find those special kind of kids in such a group like that again.”
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