The IU women’s basketball team entered Tuesday night’s Sunshine Classic contest against Florida with a respectable 8-3 record, but lacked a top-notch win.
With enough defense to build an early lead and strong and steady offense throughout, the Hoosiers finally earned their statement victory with a 102-88 win over the Gators in Winter Park, Florida.
IU moved to 9-3 with the win and sent Florida to 7-4, but the game did more than just change the records of two teams. According to assistant coach Glenn Box, it provided the Hoosiers with a win to hang their hat on.
“Coach (Teri Moren) has been preaching really hard about having a signature win,” Box said in a postgame radio interview on WHCC 105.1. "These non conference games do mean something, and this has the capability of being down the stretch a signature win for us.”
Florida entered Tuesday's game ranked 21st in the RPI. The Hoosiers were ranked just 99th despite their superior record, but wins over power conference schools help RPI rankings immensely. IU figures to see its ranking rise after beating Florida.
The Hoosiers exploded out of the gates on Tuesday with 34 points in the first quarter, using 14 made free throws in as many attempts to slowly stretch their lead. The road squad wound up going 25 of 26 from the charity stripe in the first half alone, and finished the game shooting 30 of 32 from the line.
Leading the charge for the Hoosiers was junior guard Tyra Buss, who turned in 35 points and six assists, and set an IU and Big Ten record for free throws made with 19. All five starters finished in double-digits for the Hoosiers. Junior forward Amanda Cahill poured in 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists.
It was a breakout day offensively, with 10 made 3-pointers and a 48 percent field goal percentage. The 102 points are a season-high for the Hoosiers.
Despite being slowed by the frequent free throws IU’s up-tempo style was in full force, allowing Florida to keep pace for most of the second half. The Gators scored 56 points in the final two frames, and narrowed a 29-point second quarter deficit to just 14 at various points throughout the fourth.
But the outcome of the game was hardly in doubt, as Hoosier free throws allowed them to slow any possible Gator run. Freshman guard Delicia Washington led the Gators with 31 points and senior forward Ronni Williams added 22 points.
IU will turn around quickly with another Sunshine Classic game against Stony Brook on Wednesday night at 7:45 p.m. The Seawolves are 5-5 but have won three games in a row, including a win over Florida A&M in their first game of the Sunshine Classic. Box said the momentum from Tuesday’s win has him excited to play again despite the lack of rest.
“There’s good and bad to this,” Box said. “The bad is that it’s a quick turnaround, but the good is we just got to keep it moving. We’ve got to keep this train moving, and we think that our kids are going to respond tomorrow.”