IU Coach Teri Moren said her team rebounded quite well.
Except she wasn’t talking about basketball rebounding. She was referring to how well her team has come back from the disappointment of being left out of the NCAA Tournament.
That decision by the committee feels like ancient history for the Hoosiers, and four wins later, they are heading to the semifinals of the WNIT for the first time since the tournament turned into a 64-team format in 2010.
The irony in Moren’s statement following the team’s 81-66 win against UC Davis on Sunday evening was that her team physically rebounded the ball quite well.
The Hoosiers outrebounded the Aggies 44-28, including 14 offensive rebounds to just five from the Aggies.
It’s not like IU was taller than UC Davis. Aggie junior Morgan Bertsch stands at 6-foot-4 and was UC Davis’ main threat on offense.
Coming off a game where IU allowed 17 offensive rebounds to Purdue, it was something the Hoosiers wanted to fix.
“I think coming into tonight it was a really big emphasis,” senior forward Amanda Cahill said. “Not only rebounding on the defensive end, which is expected, but also trying to steal some on the offensive end as well, and I think we did a great job of doing that.”
The Hoosiers averaged 34.4 rebounds per game this season and allowed 35.1. Finishing with 10 more boards and allowing seven fewer boards is something Moren said she was happy to see.
IU also thrived when it came to points in the paint, despite being out-sized. The Hoosiers scored 36 of their 61 points from below the free-throw line, while UC Davis only scored 18.
Bertsch, who averages 20.3 points per game, was held to 13 on 5-of-13 shooting.
“We just wanted to make sure we had a lot of digs, but they have really good shooters, too,” Cahill said. “So, we wanted to make sure they were quick, and we would stunt in and then recover back out to shooters.”
Moren said her guards did a great job of quickly digging at Bertsch to disrupt her post moves, while also getting back to the shooters quickly enough to prevent open 3-pointers.
“We were just trying to be physical with her,” Moren said. “We wanted to push her out and make her be a jump-shooter. Give it to our kids, we made her guess at times.”
Throughout the WNIT so far, IU has out-rebounded its opponents by a total of 146-121 and has out-scored its opponents in the paint with 142 points to 88 points.
Because 3-point shooting isn't IU’s strongest attribute, the team relies on attacking inside. And when you have the likes of Cahill, who can post up, take you off the dribble and shoot the outside shot, and senior guard Tyra Buss, who can get to the paint with her quickness and finish over bigs with floaters or athletic maneuvers, it makes it easy for IU to penetrate opposing defenses.
Moren knows this and credited both Buss and Cahill for keeping the team calm and recovering momentum in the third quarter after UC Davis had cut the lead to single digits.
When that happened, Buss didn’t settle for outside shots. She got into the paint and drew fouls, made layups and hit some floaters to push her team back up to double digits. Then, Cahill fought for some offensive rebounds and got some and-one putbacks to seal the Aggies fate.
Buss finished with 30 points and Cahill with 24.
The Hoosiers will look to continue their inside attack and rebounding success Wednesday or Thursday against the winner of TCU and South Dakota. IU has had all its games of the WNIT at home so far, but the location for the next game is yet to be decided.
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