As the final buzzer sounded, IU women’s basketball head coach Teri Moren smiled and waved to the limited crowd at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antonio having knocked off No. 12 seed Belmont University.
For the first time in program history, IU has won its first two games of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16. The Hoosiers made it to the Round of 16 under the original 32-team format in 1983, their inaugural tournament appearance.
Six tournament bids and nearly 40 years later, IU is winning games and setting records at a historic pace under the direction of Moren. IU’s 70-48 win over Belmont on Wednesday also extended its streak of 20-win seasons to six straight.
"Anytime you're the first team to do stuff in your program, it’s a big deal,” junior guard Grace Berger said. “We’re really excited, that’s an understatement, but we also know we’re not done yet and we’re ready to come out and play again this weekend.”
The Hoosiers and Bruins traded baskets early on in a first quarter that included four ties and four lead changes before IU started to take control. With freshman guard and leading scorer Destinee Wells on the bench, Belmont was held scoreless the final 3:16 of the quarter as IU went up 15-12.
The Hoosiers continued their defensive clinic as they held the Bruins to just 6 more points before halftime. Belmont settled for 3-pointers more often than not but failed to knock one down in the first half, starting 0-of-13 from behind the arc. IU’s 30-18 halftime lead could have been even larger if not for its five missed free throws in the second quarter.
Freshman guard Tuti Jones hit Belmont’s first two 3-pointers in the third quarter to jumpstart its scoring attack, but IU didn’t let up offensively either. The Hoosiers shot 46.4% from the field in the second half and constantly got to the free-throw line, where they went 14-of-15 in the third and fourth quarters.
“We’ve been able to wear teams down,” Moren said. “I think our endurance all season has been superior, and we’ve been able just to outlast teams, particularly in the second half, because we haven’t fatigued and tired.”
After taking their first two tournament games by a combined 53 points and making history, Moren said she wants her players to savor this win while they can. She coaches an unselfish group of girls, and they’ll always be able to cherish this moment together.
“I loved how we’ve gone about our work this week in the first two rounds,” Moren said. “This is what makes this team so special: They just don’t care how we win, who scores, who’s gonna guard, who’s gonna get the rebound, who’s gonna fill the stat sheet with assists. It hasn’t mattered.”
IU, 20-5, will take on the Mercado Region’s No. 1 seed North Carolina State University, 22-2, at 6 p.m. Saturday in San Antonio. The game will broadcast on ESPN2.