It all started with a free throw from senior guard Tyra Buss.
But it was senior forward Amanda Cahill’s 3-pointer shortly after that changed everything for the IU women’s basketball team in their game against Milwaukee at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Sunday.
Although Buss’ made free throw with six minutes to go in the second quarter began what would be a 17-0 for the Hoosiers, it was when Buss found Cahill for an open three on the next possession, that truly sparked a burst of energy from IU and the Hoosier crowd.
It proved to be the momentum swing the Hoosiers needed to pull away from the Panthers and move on to the third round of the WNIT with a 74-54 victory.
“Anytime Amanda or Tyra can get us going with threes, it’s like a shot in the arm for us,” IU Coach Teri Moren said. “It helped us feel like we could gain some control because up to that point, it just felt like we were going back-and-forth.”
IU couldn’t quite distance themselves from Milwaukee early on. In the first quarter, IU escaped with a narrow one-point lead as the Panthers defense forced the Hoosiers into six turnovers in the quarter.
In the second quarter, the Hoosiers finally took control.
Cahill’s three began a hot streak that featured numerous easy buckets down low from junior forward Kym Royster and freshman center Linsey Marchese, as well as Buss scoring 11 of her 17 points. Not only did the three spark a 17-0 run, but IU also managed to outscore Milwaukee 20-3 in the final six minutes before halftime to give them a commanding 42-24 lead heading into the locker room.
While IU flourished offensively during that span, it was ultimately its defense that proved to be even more effective. Milwaukee shot just 25 percent from the field in the second quarter while also turning it over nine times.
“I think we saw it was getting close and we said we have to get going here,” Buss said. “Our defense is what translates to our offense so we had to lock down defensively. I think that got us really fired up. Whenever we start doing that defensively, it really helps us get going offensively as well.”
IU did so without two of their best defenders in freshmen guards Jaelynn Penn and Bendu Yeaney who both went to the bench with three early fouls. Freshman guard Keyanna Warthen and sophomore forward Bre Wickware came off the bench to give their team some much-needed energy on the defensive end.
“I have to give our bench some credit, I thought they did a tremendous job,” Moren said. “We probably weren’t as efficient on the offensive end but I thought they came in and gave us some great minutes defensively.”
It was more of the same for IU in the third quarter as the Hoosiers were able to extend their lead to 63-39 behind eight points from Penn and seven from Cahill.
The Hoosiers managed to easily close out the game in the fourth quarter. Their defense continued to be dominant all day, forcing Milwaukee into 16-50 shooting from the field and 24 total turnovers on 17 IU steals. Buss had seven steals of her own while Penn added three.
“When we were waiting to see if we made the tournament, we had four or five days that we could spend some really good time just worrying about us,” Moren said. “We just tried to go back and establish our culture of what we are really about and one of those things is being able to defend well and rebound the ball.”
It was an all-around collective performance offensively for IU as well. Buss led the way with 17 points while also dishing out four assists and Penn scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Cahill and Yeaney added 12 points each while Royster had 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Cahill, consistent as usual, also contributed seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals on the day.
The win advances IU to the third round of the WNIT on Thursday where they will take on a Purdue, who the Hoosiers have beaten twice this year. Moren said she thinks her team will have plenty of motivation as they try to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the entire tournament.
“We’re obviously well-versed in Purdue,” Moren said. “I would like to think that amps us up but I think what does even more is being at home in front of our fans and having another opportunity to be together as a team.”