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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

COLUMN: Epic meltdown exposes flaws, sends Indiana women’s basketball home early

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MINNEAPOLIS — Have you ever witnessed a fiery car wreck? One that, no matter how horrific the sight, you simply can’t take your eyes off of? 

That was Indiana women’s basketball in the second half against Ohio State Saturday afternoon. The Hoosiers fell 79-75 to the No. 4-seeded Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals and were sent home from Minneapolis, Minnesota, a day earlier than most anticipated.  

The loss likely won’t mean much in terms of NCAA Tournament seeding. Barring some wackiness in other conferences, Indiana should remain in the top four teams in the country and be rewarded a No. 1 seed.  

That’s my piece of rationale. Now let’s overreact a little bit and break down the largest Big Ten Tournament comeback in history.  

Ohio State’s Press 

The catalyst for the Buckeyes' second-half surge was an unforgiving full-court press. 

It’s important to remember that when these teams met twice prior in the regular season, Ohio State twice exercised the same desperation press. This time, though, head coach Teri Moren said the Buckeyes altered their methods by denying the initial pass, then refusing to allow a reversal of the ball. 

Ohio State had three or four defenders that stuck on Hoosiers like glue and forced errant passes or total inaction from inbounders. It’s a shame the defeat unfolded as it did because Indiana had, for all intents and purposes, an outstanding first two quarters.  

The Hoosiers shot 50% from deep compared to a measly 8% from the Buckeyes, and senior guard Sara Scalia and graduate guard Grace Berger paved the way for a balanced scoring effort. At halftime, Indiana led 46-26.  

If I were a Buckeye fan, I would have already been preparing my transportation back to Columbus. In a largely clean first half, the Hoosiers turned the ball over just four times.  

As opposed to the myriad occasions this season where Indiana played its best in the third quarter, it came out of the break with a disastrous and embarrassing meltdown on the horizon.

For as mature and experienced as the Hoosiers are — only one underclassman is a starter — the lack of response to the Buckeyes’ press was confounding.  

Freshman guard Yarden Garzon and junior guard Sydney Parrish were usually tasked with passing the ball in, and even when a Hoosier found enough space to receive a pass, they would be immediately suffocated in a corner. 

One turnover led to another, each sparking a little more life into the Buckeyes’ bench. In the first half, it was the Hoosiers showing swagger and energy and Ohio State appearing as if it wanted to be anywhere else but the Target Center.  

Fourteen second-half Indiana turnovers later, it was the bench of cream and crimson that had their faces somberly buried in their hands.  

Missed Shots 

In a comeback of such monumental proportions, it takes virtually every aspect of play to worsen. I mean 24 points? There’s a reason that sort of deficit had only been overcome once before in a Big Ten matchup.  

The lack of adaptation to the press was the obvious culprit, but the Hoosiers didn’t do themselves any favors when they actually passed halfcourt. Indiana shot a combined 28% in the second half, and Berger was the only player to record more than 6 points.  

Foul trouble certainly didn’t help either. Courtesy of an early three fouls on senior forward Mackenzie Holmes, freshman forward Lilly Meister was thrust into long stretches of play in what was the biggest stage of her young career.  

In the final few possessions, Scalia couldn’t hit the open threes she was sinking with ease in the first half. Holmes was stonewalled in the post, and despite her best efforts to lead a late charge, Berger tried to do a little too much by herself.  

To gain insight into the unquantifiable metric that is momentum, just look at the second half. Regardless of any gripes with officiating or coaching down the stretch, the fact of the matter is that the Hoosiers conceded a game that was almost difficult to let slip.  

Final Four caliber teams don’t let that happen. A group with such invaluable chemistry and tantalizing skillsets shouldn’t have let even the idea of a 24-point comeback take shape.

Final Thoughts

Ok, now take a deep breath. The conference tournament — especially in the Big Ten — is fluky. Following a regular season where every team beats the life out of each other on a nightly basis, a series of games in consecutive days is bound to have surprises.  

I don’t think Indiana is out of contention for the real tournament. Moren noted that Holmes, among other players, was far from full strength Saturday and in dire need of a break. The defeat was an abject disaster, but I want to remind you that this was the third time the Hoosiers lost this season.  

It will take some regrouping and reflection, sure. But if there has been any team to inspire hope for a greater goal, it’s this one. I wouldn’t let one collapse, as humiliating as it was, take that away.  

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.
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