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Defensive performance propels IU to WNIT Championship


Freshman guard Bendu Yeaney cheers on her team after seniors Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill make consecutive field goals. Yeaney contributed 12 points to the overall score of 71, defeating TCU's 58. Ty Vinson Buy Photos

That old saying “defense wins championships” could not be more true when looking at IU’s WNIT run so far, especially in its most recent win against TCU. 

After the 71-58 victory, IU Coach Teri Moren held up the stat sheet in her opening statement and said a lot of the things that led to this victory don’t show up on it. 

She is right. 

No one kept track of how many times senior forward Amanda Cahill deflected the ball out of a TCU player’s hand, or how many times senior guard Tyra Buss took a charge, or how many times freshmen guards Jaelynn Penn and Bendu Yeaney dug at the TCU post players and harassed the wing players. 

All those intangibles added up to forcing the Horned Frogs to 34.8 percent shooting, 28.6 percent from three and 13 turnovers. 

“Tonight, I thought things were won on the defensive end,” Moren said. “One of the things you have to say about this team is that whenever we give up in size, we have 10 times more of that in our heart.”

It all began in the first quarter when both teams shot under 38-percent and the pace was slow and physical. Even though the shots weren’t falling, the Hoosiers kept themselves in the game with their defense, trailing by just one at the end of it. 

IU took the lead in the second quarter and never looked back. It all started when Penn threw a one-handed pass to junior forward Kym Royster for the easy lay in. Then, Penn hit a three, Yeaney laid it in, Yeaney got a steal and gave it to Penn to lay it in. Not to mention the statement in that run, a 3-pointer from Buss to extend the lead to eight, force a TCU timeout, and blow the roof off Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Despite the offensive outburst, it still all came back to the defensive end.

“We’ve grown a lot on the defensive end, and that translates to our offense,” Buss said. “It all starts with communication. I thought we communicated really well on the defensive end.”

The Hoosiers took a four-point lead into halftime, but they started the third quarter with another run, this time 6-0, to push the lead to its largest at 10.

Then IU pushed it up to 11, then 13, and at one point it was cut to eight with eight minutes left in the fourth. But that was as close as TCU would get for the rest of the game before the 13-point win. 

All 71 points for IU were scored by its starters. Starting with Buss who had 22, Cahill 14, Penn 13, Yeaney 12 and Royster 10. 

It was another double-digit victory for IU in the WNIT. And, as the momentum keeps growing, so does the crowd.

For the third-straight game, IU has set a new season record for attendance, this one being 7,815, which is 1,814 more than the previous game. It was also the highest attendance at a women’s game since 2008. 

The games in Assembly Hall aren’t over, however. 

After every game, the pep band plays the alma mater, but before that happened tonight, PA announcer Chuck Crabb grabbed the mic and made an announcement. Crabb said at 3 p.m. Saturday against Virginia Tech in the WNIT Championship, the game will be in Assembly Hall. The players jumped with excitement and the crowd erupted. One more game.

“I wanted to make sure our kids took that moment to look up and enjoy it,” Moren said. “In 2004, we had 10,000 people. Now, in 2018, we need to have 12,000 people. That’s the challenge for Bloomington, Indianapolis and the surrounding areas, to come out and support this team on Saturday.”

Buss and Cahill joked about how it’s like senior night round two. They want to end it the same way they did with their original senior night — victorious. 

During morning shootaround before this game, Moren asked them what it would be like to win the final game of their careers.

The answer won’t be known until the 40 minutes are up on Saturday. 

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