IU stepped up its defense when it mattered.
After struggling all game to close out shooters and front post players, the Hoosiers pulled it together when there were 15 second left.
IU had a 67-66 lead as sophomore guard Jaelynn Penn guarded the ball handler. Milwaukee’s Jamie Reit, who led all scorers in the game with 21 points, came running from the baseline to get the ball.
Chasing Reit was sophomore guard Bendu Yeaney. Yeaney fought through the screen being set for Reit, and matched up with her as soon as she started dribbling.
Reit dribbled to her left, but Yeaney cut her off, so Reit dribbled to her right and Yeaney stayed with her every step of the way. With nothing working, Reit passed it off to Odegard who missed another 3-pointer.
Senior forward Kym Royster grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 1.2 seconds left. She split a pair of free throws to give IU a 68-66 lead, but Milwaukee still had a chance.
Out of a timeout, Milwaukee passed it in to Reit, who was met by a double team from Penn and Yeaney, and before she could even do anything the buzzer sounded and IU won its season-opener to start the year 1-0.
“We weren’t necessarily trying to force them into anything, we were just trying to deny everything,” Junior forward Brenna Wise said of the team’s final defensive possessions. “We had to just go to our defensive principles and come out of that timeout and be solid.”
Junior guard Ali Patberg said the team was just trying to get a stop, and that’s what they did.
“A win is a win,” Patberg said.
Even though the team was happy to come away with the victory, Patberg said there were many things to look at and improve on.
Coach Teri Moren had one specific in mind — defense.
It wasn’t that IU’s defense was abysmal, but there were a lot of easy baskets down low and a lot of uncontested 3-pointers.
When IU gained its biggest lead of the game in the fourth quarter at 63-54 with 4:40 remaining, it looked as if the Hoosiers were going to cruise to the finish.
But, failures to box out, open 3-pointers and unnecessary fouls allowed a 7-0 Milwaukee run to cut the lead to one point in just one minute and 16 seconds. In about another minute and a half the game was tied, and just 44 seconds after that, Milwaukee had the lead.
A nine-point lead vanished in a flash.
“Defensively we are still a work in progress,” Moren said. “There’s no question about that.”
Moren said the team has a long way to go in regards to the defensive side of the floor.
That’s why after Milwaukee took the lead and Wise hit the jumper to teeter the advantage back to IU, it was vital for the Hoosiers to buckle down. They did just that to take the two-point victory.
“Defense win games,” Wise said.