I mean, this was to be expected.
Lower seeds getting absolutely whomped by their higher-seeded opponents has already become a trend in this year’s Women’s NCAA Tournament, and Indiana’s women’s basketball’s win Saturday was far from the first occurrence.
No. 2-seed Iowa defeated No. 15 Illinois State University 98-58, No. 2-seed Baylor defeated No. 15-seed University of Hawaii 89-49 and No. 1 overall seed University of South Carolina clobbered poor No. 16-seed Howard University 79-21 yesterday.
Combine a No. 3-seed, home court advantage in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, and a team that feels like it has something to prove after last year’s Elite Eight run, and you have Indiana’s 85-51 win over the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the First Round.
Indiana went into this game with all five of its starters averaging at least 10 points per game this season. The same can be said for only two of Charlotte’s players, with fifth-year guard Octavia Jett-Wilson putting up 19.1 per game.
It may have ended in one, but no game starts in a blowout. Both the Hoosiers and the 49ers started with a big 0 on the scoreboard. For a brief period in the first quarter it was a competitive game.
The two sides traded blows during the opening five minutes of the first quarter. Charlotte looked like the team that won the Conference USA Tournament just one week ago and Indiana looked like it hadn’t played in 13 days.
But, frankly, the Hoosiers are just way too good at what they do for the 49ers to pose a serious challenge. Any one of Indiana’s five starters is capable of taking over a game and scoring double-digit points. Charlotte can’t answer that.
Jett-Wilson tried, of course. She sticks out on a box score, and Indiana head coach Teri Moren was well aware of that.
“Well, she's terrific,” Moren said. “She's the Player of the Year in Conference USA, and she's a three-level kind of scorer.”
Jett-Wilson’s 19 points shouldn’t be taken lightly — she scored the same amount of points as junior forward Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana’s leading scorer. Look over the rest of Indiana’s lineup and you’ll find contributions of 18, 15 and 11 points. Look over that of Charlotte and you’ll find 9, 8 and 7.
One player isn’t going to beat Indiana, you need more than one scorer. Teams can lock onto that one player, and the Hoosiers could afford to take those risks with double teams against Jett-Wilson since the remainder of the 49ers weren’t scoring threats.
Those scores are a testament to Indiana’s abilities on both offense and defense. Indiana’s lineup can score on one end of the court and play smothering defense on the other.
So, Indiana got its blowout over a lower seed, but let’s revisit South Carolina’s aforementioned 79-21 win over Howard. That South Carolina team, the No. 1-overall seed, fell to the University of Kentucky last week in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The Hoosiers defeated the Wildcats earlier this season, an 88-67 win Nov. 14 in Assembly Hall. Four months and a potential 11-game winning streak later, and Kentucky just isn’t the same team.
The Wildcats are no ordinary No. 6-seed — they could be the most dangerous one of the four in the tournament field. If they lose to No. 11-seed Princeton? Well, that says a lot about the Tigers. Either way, Indiana has some time to prepare for its Second Round matchup.
The Hoosiers had some time after the game to watch the first half of Kentucky’s game against Princeton University. Hey, anything to get in a bit of extra scouting.