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Monday, May 20
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's basketball

COLUMN: Indiana women’s basketball plays terrific second half, moves on in NCAA tournament

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For the third straight year, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament first and second rounds are being held in Bloomington. No. 4 seeded Indiana women’s basketball took down No. 13 seeded Fairfield 89-56 on Saturday. 

After an ugly Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal exit to Michigan on March 8, Indiana viewed the NCAA Tournament selection show Sunday without the two Big Ten Championships they craved.  

And with the uncertainty that they would host the first and second rounds inside Simon Sjkodt Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers were on the edge of their seats to hear their fate. 

That fate was the No. 4 seed, hosting the 31-1 Fairfield University Stags at home.  

The Stags out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference entered as champions of both the regular season and MAAC tournament. Ranked 25th in the AP Poll and in play for an at-large bid, Fairfield seemed to be under-seeded. Going in, this would be no cake walk for Indiana. 

And in the first half, Fairfield gave Indiana all it could handle — a fast-paced offense that consistently hit shots to respond to the Hoosier offense.   

The Hoosiers could not get the Stags to go away and a crucial halftime message propelled Indiana to the Round of 32. 

The Hoosiers came out of the locker room a new team. 

Indiana responded to the first half with efficiency on both sides. The Hoosiers adapted to the pace. 

“I thought a game like this for the pace, all of it, I thought it was really good,” head coach Teri Moren said. “The evidence behind it shows that we are still in really good shape.” 

Fifth-year senior guard Sara Scalia led the charge with 18 second-half points. Scalia shot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. She finished with 27 points, four rebounds and two assists.  

“It’s always good for a shooter to have a good shooting game and go off that, it just brings more and more confidence,” Scalia said. “It was definitely a good start to the tournament in the first game for me and my team and I think it will open up a little bit more.” 

Fairfield head coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis, who coached Scalia at Minnesota, spoke on her growth and creativity. 

“She was just always in the gym and continued to get better, so she added to her game,” Thibault-DuDonis said. “As much as you can have a game plan to stop her, she is that good and she was able to get to her spots on the floor.”  

Sophomore guard Yarden Garzon, senior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil and graduate student forward Mackenzie Holmes combined for 39 points. The three were a combined 13-of-24 from the field.  

Defensively, the pace was too much at times for the Hoosiers, but just like the offense, a little coaching aided the struggle and turned it around. Indiana held Fairfield to 21% shooting in the second half, a massive improvement compared to six 3-pointers and 41.2 percent shooting from the field in the first half.  

And when the Hoosiers did allow the Stags to score, Indiana made them earn it. Fairfield only totaled four points in the paint.  

“We got off to a little bit of a slow start in the first half,” Scalia said. “We had to lock in defensively and get out to the shooters and not let them knock down threes.”  

What does this win mean for Indiana? 

The Hoosiers get a shot at conquering the demons that have hung over their head for almost a full calendar year: the Round of 32 loss in the same building to No. 8 seeded Miami, Mar. 20, 2023. With a victory over the winner of No. 5 seeded University of Oklahoma and No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast University, they would punch their ticket to the second weekend of the Big Dance in Albany, New York. 

“We are awfully proud that we got the win here this afternoon,” Moren said. “We’re happy, always happy in this tournament to be advancing.”  

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.

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