There were 8,850 fans packed inside, living and dying with each play. Whether it was their Hoosiers or the conference foe draining shots, an indescribable feeling circulated throughout Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Thursday.
No matter if it was the banked 3-pointer from a player who spent just 3:49 on the floor or the All-American who made layup after layup, the Hoosier faithful made their presence known.
They saw a triple-double, three 20-point performances and their squad’s “big kahunas” — as head coach Teri Moren said postgame — on the way to a Hoosier victory.
Taking on Michigan State, No. 14 Indiana women’s basketball struggled to keep up with the Spartans in the early stages. The visitors struck first behind senior guard Julia Ayrault’s 12 points in the first 10 minutes, propelling her squad to a 32-27 advantage.
Although Ayrault didn’t miss a field goal in the first quarter and Michigan State went 14-of-20 as a team, the Hoosiers also shot the basketball at an impressive clip. Indiana went 10-of-14 from the field while fifth-year senior guard Sara Scalia scored 9 points, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
It seemed like neither team could miss, but Hoosier fans longed for their squad to make stops, yelling for the cream and crimson to play some defense — something that was hard to come by.
Indiana entered Thursday allowing an average of 62.3 points per game compared to Michigan State’s 66.5, but defensive stops were hard to come by.
The scoring didn’t slow down in the second quarter, or any of the following quarters. The Spartans became the first team to score 50 or more points in the first half against Indiana, notching 53.
Indiana head coach Teri Moren explained that graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes felt she and her team sat in the locker room for too long at halftime against Ohio State on Feb. 4. The Hoosiers collapsed in the ensuing third quarter against the Buckeyes, so they tweaked their usual procedure Thursday.
“We put four minutes on the clock and we abided by that,” Moren said postgame. “Then we had about four and a half minutes to talk to them and then we got them out in enough time to get some shots up.”
Trailing by 6 points with approximately 1:30 remaining in the third quarter, sophomore guard Henna Sandvik came up with a defensive stop. She darted to the far corner while the Hoosiers brought the ball up the court, and then she found herself with an open shot on the left wing. She drained her first 3-pointer — banking it off the glass — since the first game of the season.
Sophomore guard Yarden Garzon followed it with a 3-pointer of her own, tying the game at 66 and sending the Hoosier faithful into a frenzy.
The Hoosiers outscored the Spartans 23-15 in the third frame but trailed by 2. Perhaps Moren’s halftime modifications paid off, but the Hoosiers were far from victory.
Indiana finally took the lead with 6:11 left in the contest after Scalia’s sixth long ball of the night. While the Spartans tied the game twice in the latter stages, the Hoosiers fought back.
Whether it was graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes’ layup to take a 2-point lead or Garzon’s to do the same, the Hoosiers always had a response.
Scalia and Moore-McNeil drained four total free throws at the end of the game, sealing the 94-91 victory.
“You have to have the kids that are super uber confident that they can knock those shots down,” Moren said. “In a moment like that where it is a gut check, you got to have some kahunas. You got to be able to step up and say, ‘I’m going to hit this shot for my team tonight.’”
When the final buzzer sounded, the Hoosier faithful erupted. They were elated to see their squad emerge victorious.
Whether it was Holmes’ 28 points or Moore-McNeil's triple-double, the Hoosiers needed all the scoring they could possibly get — and they got just enough in the back-and-forth game.
“If you didn’t enjoy that, I don’t know, you’re not a basketball fan,” Moren said. “I thought there were a lot of moments — big moments, big shots, where they had some big kahunas. Which is kind of good. That was kind of fun to watch.”
Follow reporters Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and Quinn Richards (@Quinn_richa), columnist Ryan Canfield (@_ryancanfield) and photographer Olivia Bianco (@theoliviabianco) for updates throughout the Indiana women’s basketball season.