With two minutes to go in the third quarter, sophomore guard Bendu Yeaney looked on from the bench with tears streaming down her face as her team was down 64-48 to University of Oregon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Her 10-point performance on 5-of-7 shooting was covered up by her black IU warm up attire, icing her leg up on the bench as she left the game early in the third quarter in what appeared to be an Achilles injury. As she watched, junior guard Ali Patberg got her shot rejected, and Oregon was off and running.
There was nothing Yeaney could do.
The helplessness was a constant feeling in the Hoosiers’ 91-68 loss to the Ducks, who shot 51 percent from the field and 45 percent from behind the 3-point line.
IU began the game down eight points but came alive in the second quarter to surge in front 28-24. From there, a 3-point barrage from the Ducks poured down as they ended the quarter on a 19-3 run and took a 12-point lead into halftime.
Oregon then stretched it to 16 points, but IU fought back after Yeaney’s injury. Freshman Grace Berger got a basket to go in the third quarter and the lead was back down to 10, but that was followed by an Oregon 3-pointer.
When IU got it close to single digits in the fourth quarter, Oregon hit another three. Thirty seconds later came another three, 50 seconds after that came another.
The Ducks, who lead the NCAA in 3-point percentage, hit 13 3-pointers in the game. There was nothing the Hoosiers could do.
“We had a lot of breakdowns, I thought, defensively,” IU Coach Teri Moren said. “We got rattled there for a little bit.”
The catalyst of Oregon’s outside onslaught was junior guard Sabrina Ionescu, who scored 29 points and went 5-of-9 from deep.
With 2:26 to go in the game, Ionescu grabbed an offensive rebound with a smile on her face as the crowd came to its feet. The future WNBA player had just recorded her 18th career triple-double with 10 rebounds and 12 assists, giving her six more triple doubles than anyone in NCAA history — men’s or women’s.
Ionescu was everywhere on the floor and there was just nothing IU could do about it.
“She’s a great player,” Patberg said. “Her basketball IQ is off the charts. She knew exactly what we were doing defensively and where to pick us apart.”
The Hoosiers finished the season with a 21-13 record, the fourth-straight 20-win season for the program. This was IU’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance and second under Moren, who made it in 2015 as well, when the team also saw an exit in the Round of 32.
Before next season, IU is only losing seniors Kym Royster and Grace Withrow, and is returning a majority of players who led IU in scoring and minutes this year. The Hoosiers will also be adding four new recruits, two five-stars and two three-stars.
After the game, Patberg, who scored a team-high 16 points, said the taste of the NCAA Tournament this year was a good experience and that making it is an expectation for the program.
Moren said even though IU got outplayed at certain points and lacked discipline in stretches, she was proud of her team’s effort and the way it fought from behind to win games all season.
But, the biggest statement postgame was from the soft-spoken sophomore guard Jaelynn Penn, who rose up to the occasion in Eugene, Oregon, scoring 39 points in both games combined.
“I’m just extremely proud of everybody," Penn said. "We fought really hard through our season, fought really hard through this game. We weren’t supposed to be here, you know, so next year we’ll be back.”
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