No. 1 seed Indiana women’s basketball lost to No. 9 seed University of Miami 70-68 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday in Bloomington. The loss eliminated the Hoosiers, who fell short of a third straight Sweet Sixteen and their hopes of a Final Four run.
Despite the return of senior forward Mackenzie Holmes from her absence in Saturday’s 77-47 win over No. 16 seed Tennessee Tech University, it was all Miami in the first half. Senior forward Lola Pendande — who at 6-foot-4 is one of few opposing players with the size to match up with the Hoosiers’ All-American in the post — took over in the first quarter, backing down Holmes in the paint for point-blank layups.
Indiana freshman forward Lilly Meister didn’t fare any better down low when she subbed in for the still-ailing Holmes, and by the end of the first quarter, Pendande already had 8 points and Miami led 20-12.
While Indiana struggled in the post on both ends of the floor, it was graduate guard Grace Berger — playing in her final ever game in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall — who kept the No. 1-seeded team in the game with her level-headed play and consistent midrange shooting. The veteran leader scored 10 points in the first half, but every time she made a play to bring the cream and crimson crowd of 14,480 to its feet, Miami responded with a big play of its own to put those fans right back in their seats.
At halftime, the Hurricanes led 41-29 thanks to holding the Hoosiers to sub-35% shooting from the field and just a single made 3-pointer.
Coming out of the break, Berger — herself receiving All-American honorable mention this season — took over. She got Indiana’s second half scoring started with a rare 3-pointer followed by a midrange jumper, then got Holmes involved and helped set her up for three straight layups to cut the lead to just 3 points — the closest it had been since the first three minutes of the game.
The Hoosiers couldn’t capitalize, however, and immediately followed their run by failing to score for the next four minutes of the game. While their defense improved and forced the Hurricanes into a similar drought, the lack of shots falling meant they were unable to tie or take the lead. However, a Holmes layup with just three seconds left in the quarter cut the deficit to a single point with 10 minutes to play.
As the fourth quarter began, the Canes again made a push to regrow the lead, but again the Hoosiers did not let them put the game away. Timely stops, strong free-throw shooting and getting Holmes involved kept it close and a corner triple by sharpshooting freshman guard Yarden Garzon right in front of Indiana’s bench tied the game with just 49.5 seconds remaining.
After a trio of free throws by Miami, Garzon did it again, hitting another 3-pointer to tie it back up after creating some space from her defender with a smooth step-back jumper with just 6.6 seconds left on the clock.
The game would not go to overtime, however, as coming out of its timeout, Miami got the ball to graduate forward Destiny Harden who put up short jumper over Berger which rattled home. Indiana never got a shot off as the final seconds ticked off and the buzzer sounded, ending Berger’s career and any hope the team had of a championship run.
With the loss, Indiana is eliminated and ends its season with a 28-4 record and a Big Ten regular season championship.