Indianapolis — In 2017, it was a 66-60 loss to fifth-seeded Purdue.
The year before that, it was a 79-73 defeat to twelfth-seeded Northwestern.
In the past two years, the IU women’s basketball team has lost its first game of the Big Ten Tournament. On Thursday, they ended that streak against Michigan State in dramatic fashion.
In what would go down as the longest game in the tournament’s history, the Hoosiers eventually pulled out the 111-109 victory over the Spartans in four overtimes.
It took every second of the 60 minutes, but the Hoosiers showed there was nothing that was going to keep them from avoiding another early tourney exit.
It would take a resilient effort from the entire team but, as usual, the Hoosiers leaned on their veterans who had lived through the nightmares of years past.
“After going out early after getting the double-byes the past couple of years, this was really important to us,” senior guard Tyra Buss said. “It was really important for us to get that momentum and know what it takes.”
Buss and fellow senior forward Amanda Cahill, who both played the entire contest without a single substitution, powered a potent offensive performance from the Hoosiers. It was a performance in which the Hoosiers never backed down from whatever Michigan State answered with down the stretch.
However, there were plenty of moments they could have.
It could have been when Buss was shoved by Michigan State senior forward Taya Reimer and went flailing into a crowd of IU cheerleaders on the sidelines midway through the fourth quarter. Or, it could’ve been when Cahill was hit hard in the post and missed what would have been the game-winning basket with 2.5 seconds left in the first overtime.
But, the most nerve-wracking moment was the Spartan possession that directly followed Cahill's shot when Michigan State sophomore guard Shay Colley raced down the floor and got a layup to fall at the buzzer. It left Buss crouched in disappointment until it was eventually overturned by officials due to a clock malfunction.
Whatever the situation, the Hoosiers’ resiliency down the stretch would not allow the win to escape their grasps. Buss and Cahill leading by example was exactly what the Hoosiers needed as the minutes started to add up.
The seniors stepped up to prove that in the final overtime period.
After her team went down by one, Buss responded by making her biggest shot of the night with a step-back three to put the Hoosiers back up by two.
“I didn’t shoot it great all game but my teammates told me to keep shooting and my coaches told me they believed in me,” Buss said. “I was just able to step up and hit that shot and it really gave us a lot of energy.”
Later, when the game was tied yet again, Cahill nailed two free throws with 3.6 seconds left that would eventually seal the IU win.
“I was just focusing on them going in,” Cahill said. “I wasn’t thinking anything negative. I was just thinking about how we needed those buckets.”
Cahill shot 14-20 from the field and 5-7 from three on her way to a career-high 38 points, shattering her previous high-mark of 25. It was also the second-most points ever scored by an individual in the women’s tournament’s history.
Meanwhile, despite shooting just 8-24 from the field, Buss still managed to score 24 points and record a game-high eight assists.
IU’s starting lineup, which also included junior forward Kym Royster, with 14 points, and freshman guards Jaelynn Penn, with 16 points, and Bendu Yeaney, with 19 points, combined for all 111 of the Hoosiers’ points.
Despite her career day, Cahill was quick to point out that it was an all-around team performance that propelled IU to their second round matchup with No. 17 Maryland on Friday.
As was the case the entire game, Cahill remained the grounded leader her team needed to succeed even after the final buzzer had sounded.
“We did a really good job of sticking together and battling through any tiredness that we felt,” Cahill said. “It was a big moment for us because I thought everybody stepped up at the right time."
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