It took a while for IU women’s basketball to get off the ground.
The Hoosiers were sluggish out of the gate Wednesday at Rutgers but eventually got things moving in the right direction. The team’s actual travel to New Jersey hit a bit of a snag when the IU charter plane at the Monroe County Airport on Tuesday night. The charter was making a turn onto the runway when the landing gear got stuck in the mud.
“Coming off two losses can always be tough,” IU assistant coach Janese Banks said on the IU postgame show on WHCC 105.1 FM. “Then we get stuck in a situation where we travel different, things are out of routine, and kids, players, coaches can make excuses.”
The Hoosiers didn’t end up getting to Rutgers until Wednesday afternoon, and when the game started, it looked like the team was still in Bloomington. Despite an early deficit that lasted the entire first half, IU was still able to come away with a resilient 63-52 win against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Wednesday in the Rutgers Athletic Center.
Rutgers jumped out to a seven-point lead at the 2:50 mark of the first quarter. The Scarlet Knights were flying high. The Hoosiers endured two different nearly three-minute scoring droughts in the opening period. After the first 10 minutes, the Scarlet Knights had a 17-11 lead.
Early on the Hoosiers didn’t get into a solid offensive flow, and Banks credited Rutgers’ athleticism for IU’s struggles.
“They come up with plays, even make mistakes, because of their athleticism,” Banks said. “They threw us out of rhythm early in the half — some uncharacteristic turnovers. Their speed and athleticism really presented some challenges for us early.”
IU Coach Teri Moren said before the game that a win couldn’t have come fast enough for her team. Coming off a 36-point loss to Maryland on Sunday, the team was ready to move on.
Because of the slow start, IU had to play a bit of catch-up. The Scarlet Knights faded down the stretch and wound up with just 23 points in the final two quarters. Moren has been stressing stealing games on the road as the Hoosiers fight for an NCAA Tournament berth, and Banks credited her for keeping the team locked in with the outside distractions.
“Coach Moren did a great job not allowing them to give themselves an out because of the adversity they had to fight through,” Banks said. “They really pulled together as a team.”
To top things off, IU clamped down on defense in the fourth quarter. Rutgers went through a long scoring drought of its own, and the IU capitalized by closing down the stretch.
Many things could have gone wrong. The Hoosiers were on a two-game losing streak and had travel issues. It would have been easy to let things fall apart, but instead they did they opposite. They overcame a deficit on the road, and Banks said their resiliency and toughness really showed.
“Players have to make plays, offensively, defensively, hustle plays, keeping your team together,” Banks said. “I thought our team showed that toughness tonight.”