At the end of practice Friday night before the Hoosiers played Rutgers on Saturday, IU Coach Teri Moren had her team gather around the free-throw line and said, “I got first pick.”
Moren picked freshman guard Jaelynn Penn, who stepped up to the line and knocked down her free throw. It was then Penn’s turn to pick.
She picked the other freshman guard, Bendu Yeaney, who went up to the line and missed. The whole team then lined up on the baseline and ran to the half-court line and back.
Yeaney had to go again, and she missed again—the team ran.
That happened two more times until Yeaney finally made one, and it was her turn to pick. She picked sophomore Ali Patberg, who knocked her shot down.
Patberg picked senior forward Amanda Cahill— swish. Cahill picked senior guard Tyra Buss— swish.
The drill was over and so was practice. Moren just needed five made free throws.
The next day, the team needed 25 made free throws to outlast the Scarlet Knights, 64-58, in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to pick up its third-straight Big Ten conference win of the season.
Not only did the Hoosiers make 18 more free throws than Rutgers, but they only missed four.
None of those four misses came in the most important part of the game either.
With under a minute to go, IU was up by just three, 54-51. Penn got fouled and went to the line where she made both shots to extend the lead to 56-51.
After a Rutgers bucket, the lead was back down to three with 43 seconds left, and Buss was fouled. She stepped to the line and made both.
Yeaney got the steal on the other end of the floor with 33 seconds, and the Scarlet Knights fouled immediately. Yeaney, who went 1-5 the night before at practice, knocked down both free throws to go up 60-53.
The Scarlet Knights kept pressing IU and forcing turnovers to keep their hopes of ending their two-game losing skid alive, but the Hoosiers wouldn’t miss from the charity stripe.
Buss hit two more with 24 seconds left, and Penn knocked in a pair with ten seconds left to secure the victory.
“It was a great win for our group today,” Moren said. “We didn’t handle ourselves as well as we liked to with the press. Just a few careless decisions at the end, but when you hit free throws it makes you feel a little bit better.”
Moren said the team could never get into an offensive rhythm throughout the game, but the free throws made down the stretch were huge.
Free throws were an issue for IU early on in the season, but the new drill Moren has her team doing at the end of practice could prove pivotal to keeping IU’s win streak alive.
“It’s really important for us to hit those,” Cahill said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time in practice working on them, especially pressure free throws, and I think it really showed today.”