Freshmen lead IU in Big Ten Tournament win


Tyra Buss takes a shot in the second half of Indiana's game against Penn State on Wednesday. IU won 68-63 and will face Rutgers today. Michael Williams and Michael Williams

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Jess Walter, Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill were in seventh grade the last time IU won a first round game of the Big Ten Tournament.

That was in 2009.

During the Hoosiers’ film session Wednesday morning as they prepared to play Penn State, that was IU Coach Teri Moren’s message to her team.

“What better motivation than just that?” Moren said.

For Walter, Buss and Cahill, all freshmen, it was their first Big Ten Tournament. It was their first collegiate post-season game.

They didn’t want it to also be their final game of the ?season.

The three combined for 47 points in a 68-63 win over the Nittany Lions on Wednesday night at the Sears Centre Arena.

The win ended a five-game losing streak and guaranteed the Hoosiers will play at least once more this ?season.

Cahill led all scorers with a career-high 20 points, including possibly the most important three points of the game. With less than a minute to play and the shot clock running down, IU up by just two, Cahill spun in the lane and finished with her left hand.

She was fouled and made her free throw to give IU a critical two-possession lead.

Despite the size disadvantage — Penn State’s starting lineup includes three players taller than six feet — the Hoosiers continued attacking the basket all game. Making sure size wasn’t a factor meant staying tough defensively too, Cahill said.

IU tried to double down on Penn State center Candace Agee each time she caught the ball. The 6-foot-6 junior finished with 14 points.

“We knew going in we were going to see some size,” Cahill said. “So we tried to ?really crowd the post. My teammates did really great on just digging in.”

The Hoosiers’ outside shooting prowess returned to form during the first half Wednesday. They shot 57.7 percent from the field, including 5-of-10 3-pointers.

Walter, who earned her first start against Rutgers on Sunday in place of the injured Jenn Anderson, started once again against the Nittany Lions. During the second half when the Hoosiers’ offense had become stagnant, Walter banked in a 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer went off.

It gave IU a 9-point lead.

Walter smiled with her teammates as they back-pedaled to the other end of the court.

The freshman guard has become a integral part of the offense, helping to stretch out defenses and consistently hit open shots.

“This is a kid that spends time in the gym,” Moren said. “She spends time after practice, before practice, very committed to being a really good Big Ten player.”

Walter had 15 points, all on 3-pointers.

Fellow freshman Tyra Buss played a team-high 36 minutes as she scored 12 points, pulled down a team-high seven rebounds and dished out eight assists. Buss said her team made a point to ignore the nerves and come out playing like they’d been there before, to play with ?confidence.

To Moren, that showed.

“They just didn’t want to be denied,” she said.

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