Women’s basketball in the Big Ten is a treacherous sea. With five teams in the AP Top 25 Poll, only the boldest of captains are able to compete for a conference title.
It’s a sea Indiana head coach Teri Moren has navigated well, boasting wins over No. 25 Ohio State and Penn State. Both of her team’s losses came from non-conference top-10 opponents in No. 2 Stanford University and No. 5 North Carolina State University.
However, there’s always been one threat on the horizon, a white whale lurking in the vicious waters.
Prior to today, Moren had faced Maryland 11 times during her time coaching at Indiana and lost every one. Maryland has seemed vulnerable at times, including in a 84-80 Indiana loss last season. However, Maryland always eludes Moren before escaping into the briny depths with a win.
If Indiana’s goal is to win a conference title, Maryland is a team it simply has to beat. After 12 tries, Moren finally did so in a 70-63 win Sunday in Bloomington.
Indiana was able to take a lead into halftime thanks to its entire starting lineup, and senior forward Aleksa Gulbe and graduate student guard Ali Patberg ended the first half as co-leading scorers with 8 points apiece.
Maryland was also forced to play in rough waters against Indiana’s home crowd. Patberg drove down the court for a layup to increase Indiana’s lead to 4 points late in the second quarter, pivoting back down the court in a triumphant yell.
The crowd at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall responded in kind, leaping to its feet and filling the arena with a collective roar and applause.
Moren had her white whale exactly where she wanted it, with Indiana’s defense allowing just 2 points in the remaining two and a half minutes of the second quarter while making two free-throws in the process.
It was never going to be that easy though. Senior forward Angel Reese and junior guard Diamond Miller combined for all of Maryland’s 16 points in the third quarter to tie the game heading into the fourth.
Indiana stormed to an early fourth quarter lead. A fastbreak heave from senior guard Grace Berger to a wide open junior forward Mackenzie Holmes felt like a dagger, or, more appropriately, a harpoon. It gave Indiana a 9 point lead with just over three minutes remaining.
But the white whale wasn’t going down without a fight. Maryland stormed back in those remaining three minutes, scoring 10 points to take the matchup into overtime.
Indiana was missing three bench players, leaving little time for its starters to sub out and catch their breath, forcing Berger and Patberg to play for the entire game. Maryland was able to get 21 points out of its bench to Indiana’s 2.
Moren called on her starters to deliver one last time, and they did. Indiana held Maryland to just 2 points in overtime, with both of those points coming from free throws. The Terrapins picked up six fouls in their vain desperation to capsize the Hoosiers’ hopes.
Indiana’s dribble to close out the remaining seconds of overtime became more difficult to hear with each bounce as the crowd rose to its feet. Cheers and applause filled the 50-year-old arena as Indiana’s win was sealed.
Indiana made a statement. Moren’s white whale didn’t get away this time. There’s a new team to fear in the Big Ten’s treacherous waters, and it’s coming for the league title.