No. 2 Indiana women’s basketball was facing adversity it had hardly seen all season. The Hoosiers trailed by 6 at halftime, with Michigan State clicking on all cylinders while Indiana struggled.
However, key adjustments out of halftime were a deciding factor to help Indiana survive 94-85 and advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
“Halftime came at a good time for us, really just to collect our thoughts and make some adjustments,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said after the game. “We’re just happy to get the first win out of the way because I think the first game in tournament play is always the most important.”
Indiana scored first, but the rest of the first quarter was all Michigan State. The Spartans came out firing, spearheaded by graduate guard Kamaria McDaniel's 10 points early, while the Hoosiers couldn’t get a shot to fall.
Based on this season’s lone matchup between the two teams, an 83-78 Michigan State win in East Lansing, there were many keys for Indiana to come out victorious. Three-point shooting, offensive rebounds and turnovers were three of the most crucial, and Michigan State had the advantage of all three early.
The Spartans shot 4-of-9 from three, grabbed five offensive rebounds and forced six Indiana turnovers in the first quarter alone. The Hoosiers shot just 28.6% in the opening frame and trailed by 10 after one period.
Indiana’s shots started to fall in the second frame — making baskets at a 54.5% clip — but Michigan State continued to light it up from deep. While the Hoosiers’ defense held the Spartans to 1-of-8 from inside the arc in the second quarter, Michigan State shot 4-of-6 from three.
The Spartans built a 12-point lead halfway through the second period, but momentum quickly shifted. Junior forward Kiandra Browne checked in for the first time at the 4:11 mark, but she immediately suffered a knee injury. She was taken off the floor via wheelchair and never returned.
The Hoosiers rallied, ripping off a quick 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 3. Michigan State responded and extended its lead to 6 at halftime.
“You hate it so much, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, but I think it did give us a moment,” Moren said. “These kids are resilient, and this group really came together.”
With nine first half turnovers, four 3-pointers to Michigan State’s eight and losing the rebounding battle 20-18, Indiana had failed its early tests. But to Moren, it wasn’t the physical adjustments which flipped things around.
“It wasn’t schematically — we needed to fix our minds,” Moren said. “I thought we slept-walked in the first quarter, came out slow and was uncharacteristic of our basketball team. So, the adjustment at halftime was to wake up.”
The Hoosiers started the second half in a desirable fashion. Freshman guard Yarden Garzon hit her first three of the game and senior forward Makenzie Holmes later hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 1. Michigan State continued to resist, extending its lead back to 5, but Indiana chipped away until a second Garzon 3-pointer gave the Hoosiers their first lead since 2-0.
McDaniel fought back, scoring 9 of Michigan State’s last 11 points of the quarter, but Indiana held a 1-point lead entering the fourth period. The Hoosiers’ veteran group was going to be battle tested in the final frame.
Junior guard Sydney Parrish answered the call, hitting back-to-back triples to start the fourth, giving Indiana its largest lead of the game at 7 points. Michigan State reduced the mark to 3, but Indiana pulled away and gave itself a comfortable cushion, reaching as high as 13 points with 1:14 remaining.
Michigan State’s backcourt of McDaniel and sophomore guard DeeDee Hagemann made things interesting down the stretch, making one 3-pointer and drawing fouls on two attempts to cut Indiana’s lead to 5 with 35 seconds remaining.
The Hoosiers’ experience proved its worth. Junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil made 9-of-10 free throws in the final 46 seconds and Indiana had just one turnover in the last 4:30 of the game to seal the 94-85 win.
Indiana shored up its first half woes to secure the victory. It made eight threes while holding Michigan State 3-of-13 from deep, tied the rebound battle at 20 and turned the ball over six times while forcing six Spartan turnovers in the second half.
Next up for Indiana is the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana will play the winner of Michigan and Ohio State, and the game will take place on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. It will be aired on Big Ten Network.
Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree) and columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.