The news the IU women’s basketball team received Monday night was not of the good kind.
As the women’s NCAA Tournament selection show wound down, it became clear the Hoosiers would fall just a few spots shy of qualifying as an at-large bid for the second straight season.
But their season isn’t over yet.
With that disappointing news also came the announcement that IU will have a first round matchup with UT-Martin at 7 p.m. Thursday in Bloomington as part of the women’s NIT.
UT-Martin will come into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall as a dangerous mid-major foe that also fell just short of making it to the NCAA tournament.
After going 19-14 on the season and 13-5 in conference play, the Skyhawks finished second in the Ohio Valley conference standings and made it to the conference championship. There, they fell to No. 22 Belmont in a heartbreaking 63-56 overtime loss.
Though UT-Martin doesn’t have any significant victories this season, they have been competitive with some high-profile teams.
On Dec. 18, 2017, they lost to Purdue, who the Hoosiers beat twice this season, by just two points. On Nov. 18, 2017, the Skyhawks lost by eight to a Northwestern team that took IU to overtime before the Hoosiers eventually pulled out the victory.
UT-Martin also took Chattanooga, who upset the Hoosiers on Nov. 20, 2017, to overtime, losing by just five points. They also lost by 11 to Saint Mary’s, who defeated IU by six in Moraga, California.
The Skyhawks are led by their leading scorer in sophomore Kendall Spray. She’s averaging 16.6 points per game while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range.
Freshman forward Chelsey Perry also contributes 11.4 points while leading the team in rebounding at 5.8 per game. Meanwhile, junior guard Emayne Robertson adds 11.2 points and leads them in assists at 4.5 a game.
This will be the second year in a row that IU will have their first round NIT game at home. Last season, they defeated Ball State 71-58 to open up postseason play. They followed that up with wins over Saint Louis and SMU before eventually falling to Villanova.
The home court advantage could prove vital for the Hoosiers as UT-Martin is just 6-8 on the road this season.
IU made the NIT as the automatic qualifier from the Big Ten after beating out Purdue in a tiebreaker. The automatic qualifier is the conference’s highest-finishing team in the final regular season standings. Along with going 17-14 on the season, the Hoosiers went 9-7 in Big Ten play this season before being bounced by Maryland in the second round of the conference tournament.
Purdue also went 9-7 in conference play this season but lost to IU in both of their meetings. The two teams could possibly meet up for a third time in the third round of this year’s tournament.
Meanwhile, fellow Big Ten opponent Rutgers declined their invitation to compete in this year’s tournament.
Game time for Thursday’s game will be at 7 p.m.
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