One day removed from just the third-ever No. 16 seed upset over the No. 1 seed — Fairleigh Dickinson men’s basketball over Purdue — a moment of fear crept over Assembly Hall that the fourth time was a possibility. However, No. 1 seed Indiana women’s basketball conquered a slow first quarter to topple No. 16 seed Tennessee Tech University 77-47 and advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32.
“Very good win against a very good team,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said postgame. “I thought it took us a good quarter to get our legs underneath us. ... Once we got going defensively things started to open up offensively.”
Tennessee Tech — fairly comparable in roster makeup to Fairleigh Dickinson due to a small lineup — got off to a flaming start. The Golden Eagles made their first four 3-point attempts, trading baskets with the Hoosiers and delivering crowd-silencing shots. Senior guard Maaliya Owens led the charge, draining two threes in the period.
Contrarily, Indiana struggled from deep early, making 1-of-6 from deep in the first frame. However, the Hoosiers used their size advantage to dominate inside the paint for easy buckets and free throw opportunities. Tennessee Tech’s starting lineup consisted of four guards 5-foot-9 or smaller with one 6-foot forward, while Indiana started four players 6-foot or taller.
With the two teams knotted at 18 after one quarter, the thought of an upset loomed large. Senior forward Mackenzie Holmes hadn’t played due to knee soreness, and her absence was felt early. It didn’t matter.
The Golden Eagles scored first to lead 20-18, but the Hoosiers outscored them 21-7 the remainder of the quarter, including a 17-0 run in the midst of it. One factor that led to the run was Indiana’s shored up defense, preventing Tennessee Tech the 3-point opportunities it got early. The Golden Eagles shot 1-of-6 from deep in the second frame.
Most importantly, however, was the Hoosiers’ transition offense. In the first quarter, their first 6 points came from fast breaks but none more after that. Indiana ran wild in the second period, scoring 15 of its 21 points on run-outs for easy layups, free throw chances and even a 3-ball from freshman guard Yarden Garzon.
“It’s obviously who we are and who we wanna be, is pushing the pace and running,” Moren said. “And then, we started pushing the pace even harder. I loved the shots we got.”
Indiana held a 39-27 halftime lead and never let the contest get any closer. The Golden Eagles revisited their 3-point success by connecting on three more in the third period, but the Hoosiers knocked down two of their own and added 5 points from the charity stripe. Junior guard Sydney Parrish — the game’s leading scorer with 19 — contributed 8 of Indiana’s 17 third quarter points.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, Indiana seemingly couldn’t miss, and Tennessee Tech couldn’t seem to make a basket. The Hoosiers started the quarter on an 11-2 run, still running the fast break for easy opportunities and building their lead to 20 and more.
Graduate guard Grace Berger checked out early at the 6:25 mark, capping off an efficient 17-point, seven-rebound and four-assist outing with no turnovers. Shortly after, the remainder of Indiana’s starters left the game to a standing ovation in Assembly Hall.
“It’s the NCAA Tournament, so it’s win or go home,” Berger said. “There’s really no reason for any of us not to have a sense of urgency. We’re on the biggest stage, that’s where we belong and where we want to be.”
The Hoosiers shot 10-of-13 in the fourth period while holding the Golden Eagles to 4-of-17 from the field, outscoring them 21-8 to produce the final score, 77-47. It was tested early, but Indiana was still dancing.
Despite the slow start, Indiana played an efficient and dominant game. It shot 58% from the field and made 14-of-18 free throws while scoring 44 points in the paint and 29 points on fast breaks.
Defensively, it shut Tennessee Tech down to 27.7% from the field — including limiting the early 3-point success to 30.8% overall. The Golden Eagles scored zero fast break points and only 16 points in the paint, including being swatted an Indiana NCAA Tournament single game record 11 times.
Indiana will play the winner of No. 8 seed Oklahoma State University and No. 9 seed University of Miami on Monday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.