Indiana women’s basketball stumbled out of the gate against Penn State Monday night, losing track of the ball to the tune of seven turnovers and allowing Penn State to jump out to a 6-2 lead within a minute and a half of the opening tip.
A 4-point lead. Not anything to shy away from, but it probably felt good while it lasted.
Those 6 points came from Penn State’s best scoring threat, junior Guard McKenna Marisa, who scored on a driving layup on the Nittany Lions’ first possession before hitting a jumper after an out-of-bounds turnover from Indiana.
Just nine seconds after that second bucket, Penn State senior guard Niya Beverly intercepted an ill-advised pass from junior forward Mackenzie Holmes before quickly finding Marisa for another jumper.
Indiana took a timeout in response. The team was getting finessed on offense, and faced an aggressive, turnover-hungry Penn State defense. They looked lost and made the same mistakes that plagued them in previous slow starts. They needed to regroup.
And so, they did.
Indiana went to work on defense, smothering Penn State’s shooters on the perimeter while plucking rebounds when its opponents shots weren’t falling in response. Penn State went on to shoot just 33.9% on field goals.
Back on offense, the Hoosiers found the Nittany Lions’ fatal flaw. While the Nittany Lions were aggressive, crowding the Hoosiers in the paint, they left shooters wide open along the perimeter. Graduate student guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary read this as an invitation, hitting a 3-6 clip from beyond the arc.
It wasn’t just the Cardaño-Hillary show on offense though. The Hoosiers had multiple options when they needed, or simply wanted, to score. When perimeter shooters were covered, graduate student guard Ali Patberg cut through the Nittany Lion defense for some mid-range work.
Holmes led the team on the night with 16 points, and was joined in the double digits by her four fellow starters. By the time halftime came around, Indiana was sitting on a 16-point cushion. One might think this would lead to some ease, even a bit of mercy perhaps.
But, no, it did not. Indiana went all gas, no brakes in the second half. They had the kind of lead that eases the nerves of most sports fans and terrifies those who happen to be rooting for a team from the state of Georgia.
And what did they do with it? Protect it like it was just 2 measly points rather than a comparatively whopping 16. By the time the third quarter ended, it’d increased to 30.
If you were looking for a capable Penn State scoring option not named Marisa on Monday night in Bloomington, you might just be better off searching for Purdue apparel, palm trees or stable, reasonable tuition rates.
Marisa scored 21 of Penn State’s 40 points. Don't worry, I'll spare you the mathematics. That is, in fact, more than half.
Penn State’s players? Oh, they found a great many brick walls wearing cream and crimson. I’d name a specific player, but quite frankly I have to keep this reasonably brief.
As the fourth quarter drew to a close, one could feel some of the energy in Assembly Hall decrease as its usual din was replaced with the sounds of shoe against linoleum and occasional, sitting applause.
This lowered enthusiasm came not from disappointment, but pity. Indiana was winning and just kept pouring it on and on and on and — I think you get it. This win was brutal and traumatic. Children were watching, for goodness sake. Parents will be left explaining to their innocent, bright eyed progeny that at least Penn State did its best… right?