After weaving through Michigan State’s full-court press, the ball was passed to sophomore guard Tyra Buss at the elbow with 5:15 to go in the game.
After getting off to a quick start, IU led No. 18 Michigan State by 14 at halftime, but throughout the second half, the Spartans threatened the Hoosier lead on multiple occasions.
Buss drove toward the rim, took a slap on her right arm and laid the ball in with her left.
Following the conversion, the sophomore yelled to the crowd and pumped her fist as Assembly Hall exploded into cheers.
She had given her team a 17-point lead with what seemed to be the dagger, leading to an 81-65 victory for the Hoosiers.
“I was really excited for the team because we’ve had a rough couple games,” Buss said. “We were really pumped up for this game, and we wanted this one really, really bad.”
After losing to Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana on Sunday and to Ohio State by 27 points before that, IU welcomed Michigan State with the desire to bounce back from a Big Ten record that had slipped to 1-3.
Two Spartan juniors — forward Aerial Powers and guard Tori Jankoska — came into the game averaging 18.5 and 16.8 points respectively, while Michigan State also sent out 6-foot-3 graduate center Jasmine Hines and a speedy sophomore Morgan Green.
IU Coach Teri Moren said defending the weapons on the Big Ten’s fifth-best scoring offense would require a zone defense from start to finish — something foreign to the Hoosiers. She said in practice she stressed the importance of communication when using a zone defense.
“It pains me to write that we’re going to be using zone on the board before a game because I’m afraid we won’t come out with the intensity that it takes to beat a team like Michigan State,” Moren said. “I thought their communication — their talk — was terrific.”
In an effort to facilitate the communication, Moren gave junior guard Karlee McBride her first start of her career, saying the guard displays the most communication on the team.
McBride and the Hoosiers took advantage of the opportunity, keeping Powers and Jankoska down to a combined 23 points and the Spartans down to just 65 points, 12 points less than their averaged 77 this season, and forcing 24 turnovers.
Hines posted the highest mark for Michigan State down low with 24 points.
“We had some trouble with Hines on the block, but I think our men’s basketball team would have trouble with Hines on the block,” Moren said.
Moren also said not making easy shots is what hurt the team against Purdue, so the coaching staff stressed the effort in shot selection before Wednesday’s game.
The players got the message, as the team shot 55 percent from the field, including 5-of-5 from McBride, 5-of-8 from Cahill and 5-of-10 from Buss, who all combined for 58 of IU’s 81 total points.
The win pushed IU’s home record to 7-0 this season and boosted its record to 10-7 (2-3 in the Big Ten). With the previous win against then-No. 24 Chattanooga, IU has beaten two top-25 opponents for the first time since 2009-10.
“If we talk like we did today, set screens for each other and knock down shots, we can compete with anyone in the Big Ten,” Buss said. “I truly believe that and I know these guys do too.”