That was rough. Very rough.
Indiana women’s basketball fans are used to seeing performances like this, only they’re usually the ones cheering and jeering. Indiana is the stingy defensive team. Indiana is the team that frustrates opponents into cold spells.
But on Monday night’s 72-55 beatdown, it was all Nebraska.
The Hoosiers both scored and allowed 18 points in the first quarter. The good news? No single Cornhusker player was going off against them, and the scoring was decently spread out. The bad news? Well, read the first sentence of this paragraph again: they were tied at the end of the quarter.
In that span, the Hoosiers had just two fewer rebounds than the Huskers and forced four turnovers while committing none of their own.
The dam burst in the second quarter.
Indiana was outscored 16-8, outrebounded 16-6 and committed three turnovers in those ensuing 10 minutes. Nebraska found offensive production up and down its lineup, as no player scored more than 5 points in the second quarter.
The absence of junior forward Mackenzie Holmes — who has missed Indiana’s previous seven games with an undisclosed knee injury, was glaring as soon as Nebraska freshman Alexis Markowski stepped onto the court.
Markowski, who can play forward or center, may as well have been a brick wall in the paint. She nearly outrebounded the Hoosiers herself in the second quarter, hauling in five.
Indiana couldn’t afford to pay too much attention to her on the offensive end either, lest it create openings on the perimeter. The Huskers, who shot 2-3 beyond the arc in the second quarter, were happy to take advantage.
Simply put, Nebraska thoroughly outplayed Indiana. The worst part of that reality? Indiana knew this was a tough defensive team going in. Nebraska allows its opponents to shoot just 37.1% from the field on average, the lowest mark in the Big Ten.
This didn’t come from some fluky performance from one player who had a good night and tore the Hoosiers up. It was a true team effort, one that Indiana is used to giving opponents fits with.
Mind you, it didn’t help that there was a veritable horde of Husker fans bearing down on them. Nebraska averages an attendance of 4,243 per game this season, good for third in the Big Ten.
But there was a second half, and the Hoosiers had been here before. They rallied late for a win against Purdue on Jan. 16 in Mackey Arena. If any team could overcome this, surely it would be Indiana… right?
Well, much like the first, the third quarter looked promising for Indiana. The Hoosiers outscored the Huskers 21-18 and out-rebounded them 12-9 in the span. The deficit for the visitors was just 5 points heading into the fourth quarter, and the game was fully in reach.
But the final quarter spelled doom.
Indiana scored 1 point off of a free throw from senior guard Grace Berger just 28 seconds into the fourth quarter. From there, the Hoosiers would go the next seven minutes without scoring, giving up 20 points to the Huskers in the process. None of the 12 shots the Hoosiers took after that Berger free-throw fell.
Ironically, Berger broke the drought herself, draining a 3-pointer with just under two-and-a-half minutes remaining. But by then, Indiana was in a 21-point hole, and a comeback was nearly impossible.
The feeling of revenge from Indiana’s win on Jan. 13 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall began to set in for the Huskers on the court and those in the stands. The Huskers, of a 7-6 record in the Big Ten, were mere minutes away from upsetting the newly-minted top team in the conference. Fans roared in triumph for foul calls and leapt to their feet to take in the moment.
Indiana was given a taste of its own medicine. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and the feeling of what could’ve been will linger for the more than 600-mile trip back to Bloomington.