The emotions of the IU women’s basketball team have drastically changed over the last four days.
On Monday, the team was awaiting a decision from the NCAA selection committee regarding its postseason future in the Big Dance. The final decision was not a popular one as the Hoosiers were not even mentioned as contenders by the time the whole tournament was decided.
The Hoosiers' resume spoke for itself and it’s safe to say the team was disappointed in the outcome Monday, but IU turned disappointment into motivation for the NIT as IU got an automatic bid. In the three days of practice leading up to its first-round matchup with UT-Martin, no one pouted or gave any less effort. IU has one goal now — to win the NIT.
Step one of six was completed Thursday as IU defeated UT-Martin 74-50 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
After not playing since March 2, the Hoosiers showed no sign of rust as IU jumped out to a 7-0 lead and took a nine-point advantage at the end of the first quarter.
“Our efficiency I thought was good,” IU Coach Teri Moren said. “We had moments where we came up empty on the offensive end, but I thought after the two-week period we had off, we had an opportunity to look a bit more rustier.”
The second quarter saw a different UT-Martin offense as the Skyhawks shot 8-10 from the field and outscored the Hoosiers 22-18.
Sophomore guard Kendall Spray hit two threes in that quarter and scored 12 points to claw her team within five at the half. Moren said she would get open every time her team would go under the ball screen — something she wanted adjusted in the final two quarters.
In the second half, Spray scored just six points and IU allowed just 14 total points from the whole team, seven in each quarter.
“We messed up on a few plays that we scouted so during halftime we talked about that,” senior forward Amanda Cahill said. “I think that helped us get some more stops and led to some offense.”
The third quarter was where IU began to pull away.
The Hoosiers took full advantage of the Skyhawks 1-3-1 zone defense, which allows open spots in the middle of the floor and the corner. Freshman guard Jaelynn Penn was in the corner and Cahill was in the middle, and the two led IU in scoring for the game with 25 and 14 points respectively.
“Just patience on offense,” Penn said about her career-high scoring night. “Seeing opportunities and taking it. I felt good and just let it go without really thinking about it.”
Last year in this tournament, IU made it down to the final eight teams before losing to Villanova. Moren said this year IU is treating it like a six-game series and wants to go undefeated.
Game two of six for IU will be against Milwaukee, who defeated University of Northern Iowa 81-67 in its first-round game. The two will meet at 2 p.m. Sunday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
“One down, five more to go,” Penn said. “We keep saying that to each other.”
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