No. 1 seed Indiana women’s basketball saw itself down to No. 9 seed University of Miami, but it continued to battle back. A valiant comeback, clutch shots and important defensive stops were all made, but a few too many chances slipped away. Indiana lost 70-68 in the final seconds, ending its historic season and chances at a Final Four.
“I felt like it was a game of runs,” head coach Teri Moren said postgame. “They had more runs than we had in the first half, but then, like we always do, we find our way back in. It took a minute to tie up, but then we seesawed back and forth, and we just ran out of time.”
The Hoosiers struggled in the early going. The two teams traded baskets to start the game before the Hurricanes ripped off a 12-2 run, spearheaded by senior forward Lola Pendande with 8 points and two 3-pointers from graduate guard Destiny Harden.
Miami led by 14 early in the second quarter, but a 6-0 run gave Indiana life. Miami responded, but another quick run — including Indiana’s first made 3-pointer after starting 0-for-7 — cut the deficit to 5. The Hoosiers once again had a big opportunity 2:30 away from halftime.
It didn’t hold. Indiana faltered and allowed a 9-2 run, giving Miami a 12-point lead at the half.
With fresh legs out of halftime, Indiana made a strong push, opening on a 11-2 run in the first 3:37 of the period. The veterans took over, as graduate guard Grace Berger scored the first 5, followed by three consecutive layups from senior forward Mackenzie Holmes. The deficit was at 3, and behind a roaring Assembly Hall crowd of 14,480, the Hoosiers had all the momentum.
In an unexplainable turn of events, all momentum ceased. Turnovers were abundant, neither team could make a shot. A combined scoreless drought lasted for nearly four minutes, and it was Miami who took advantage.
Indiana missed four shots and committed two turnovers in the stretch. With chances to cut the deficit to 1 or tie the game, it just couldn’t convert. Instead, Indiana trailed by 6.
The Hoosiers still persisted. They ended the last two minutes outscoring the Hurricanes 8-3 to finally cut it down to 1. Starting the fourth quarter with the ball, another chance to snatch the lead presented itself.
First, a missed 3-pointer. After a turnover gave Indiana the ball back, a missed layup followed. Pendande was then fouled twice shooting and made 3-of-4 to extend the lead to 4.
Freshman guard Yarden Garzon nailed a triple, the deficit was back to one. On the other end, Garzon fouled Pendande: two more free throws. If Indiana was Superman, a 1-point Miami lead was kryptonite.
Time was winding down, and Indiana was in trouble. Minutes later with 3:05 to go, a breakthrough seemed imminent. Holmes scored a basket and was fouled, both teams were locked at 60 and Indiana had a free throw to give Indiana its first lead of the night. Short, front iron.
Pendande answered with a layup, then senior guard Haley Cavinder hit a three to extend the lead to 5. Just under two minutes remained, and Indiana trailed by 5 with its season on the line. One final push would be made.
Berger got fouled and made free throws, Holmes swatted a layup and Garzon made a big-time corner 3-pointer. Tied. Harden got fouled and split the pair, and with 42 seconds left, a heroic moment was due for the Hoosiers.
Junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil took the ball at the left wing, shrugged off a Holmes screen and drove on an open lane. A left-hander on her strong side, a wide-open layup was there, and Hoosier nation anticipated an eruption. All backboard, Miami ball.
Harden stepped to the line for two. A miss, and then another. A 70% shooter at the line, Harden missed 3-of-4 to give Indiana yet another chance.
Berger weaved her way into the paint, pivoting and squaring up for a shot she’s attempted — and made — hundreds of times. Back iron. Cavinder got fouled, and the 89% free throw shooter calmly made both to go up 3. Indiana had 12 seconds to save its season.
It did. Berger delivered the ball to Garzon, who passed up an initial look before a crafty step back and sank the triple. However, six seconds remained.
After a timeout, Harden got the ball in the paint and worked on Berger. After appearing to travel, she released the ball which rolled around the rim and sunk through.
In a frenzy and three seconds left, Garzon inbounded the ball to Moore-McNeil, who took the ball up court and kept dribbling. Miami swiped and the ball was poked loose. Indiana failed to get an attempt for a desperation shot. Season over.
“It’s hard to put into words right now,” Holmes said. “Obviously, I’m upset. ... A lot of emotions in our locker room right now.”
In the final 10 minutes, the teams were tied four times and Indiana trailed by 2 or 1 four times. The Hoosiers had several chances, but whether it be a missed shot, missed free throw or turnover, they could never take the lead.
“We got the shots we wanted, they just couldn’t go down,” Moren said. “And then, we couldn’t get the stops. … We could’ve easily climbed ahead, but it didn’t happen.”
Indiana committed seven turnovers, five below its season average, and shot 76.5% at the charity stripe, exacting the season average. However, it was the timing of each mistake and a rare inability to make shots which turned out costly. In a twist of fate, Indiana eventually lost the game on defense.
The Hoosiers’ season will never be forgotten — Big Ten Champions for the first time in 40 years, program records of 28 wins, 80.9 points per game, 49.7% field goal percentage, 36.9% 3-point percentage and more. But, of course, Indiana’s 2022-23 story will always be “what could have been.”
Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Sebree (@mattsebree), columnist Matt Press (@MattPress23) and photographer (.@alexpaulphoto) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.