Indiana is ready to take back the pen, write its own story in the Big Ten Tournament

  • 03/02/2023 11:56 am in

The buzzer sounded, and the ball swished through the net. Caitlin Clark raised her arms triumphantly as Grace Berger and the rest of the Hoosiers walked off the floor at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The 2022-23 regular season chapter was done.

But the story of Indiana women’s basketball is far from over.

“Another book comes out next week, when we go to the Big Ten Tournament,” Teri Moren said postgame.

Indiana suffered only its second loss of the season to Iowa on Sunday in an intense, back-and-forth affair that ended dramatically, 86-85. Both teams competed until the end, and it couldn’t have ended any other way.

“I am really, really proud of our group,” Moren said. “Once again they showed how tough they are, how they are one of the very best teams in the country in terms of just the way they fight and how they handle themselves.”

While the fact that the Hoosiers lost to the Hawkeyes is a stormcloud over many fans, Sunday’s game was one of the best representations of the team’s grit and fighting spirit. They weathered the storm, fighting back from double-digit deficits and refusing to give up easy plays on either end of the floor.

Chloe Moore-McNeil, tasked with guarding Clark once again, played tough throughout and finished with 18 points, many coming under pressure from the free throw line or while under foul trouble.

Indiana adjusted out of halftime, finding Parrish beyond the arc and switching up some offensive movements; Parrish shot 3-of-6 from deep and led the team in scoring in the second half with 16 points.

Four starters scored 16 or more points, and Mackenzie Holmes led the way with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Yarden Garzon was resilient under the net, grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds. It was, by no means, a bad basketball game.

Iowa versus Indiana never is.

But at the end of the day, it was a loss. And just like with wins, Moren and her team follow the same protocol of spending a maximum of 24 hours thinking about the previous game before moving forward.

“I wouldn’t say that Sunday against Iowa was our best 40 minutes,” Moren said Thursday during media availability. “That’s why I’ve been so excited about how they’ve shown up here the last couple of days. Because we know we let one slip away, and there’s a little bit of frustration, bitterness with that, which isn’t a bad thing. But they also have flushed it and they’re ready to move on.”

In the long run, the loss doesn’t — or at least, shouldn’t — affect the Hoosiers in the postseason. They are the number one seed in the Big Ten tournament, and are projected to be a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament as well. It seems as though the only thing that could affect that national seeding is a bad loss in the Big Ten tournament.

Big Ten tournament preview

The Hoosiers start in Minneapolis on Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET, playing the winner of Thursday’s matchup of Michigan State versus Nebraska.

Michigan State handed Indiana its first loss of the season back in December, pulling out an 83-79 victory. The Spartans took advantage of a Grace Berger-less Indiana team and forced 21 turnovers. The Hoosiers and the Huskers also produced a competitive game — as most are in the Big Ten — going to overtime in Bloomington before the Hoosiers scored 12 unanswered points to seal the deal.

Nebraska closed out the regular season 16-13, going 8-10 in conference to receive the No. 8 seed in the Big Ten tournament. The Huskers finished the regular season with five players averaging double figures, led by Jaz Shelley with 14.3 points per game. Alexis Markowski is second on the team, averaging 12.4 points per game but is Nebraska’s greatest threat on the boards, with 10.1 rebounds per game.

Markowski leads the Big Ten in rebounds per game, and Nebraska is the second-best rebounding team in the conference at 41. Indiana is seventh with 36.7.

Holding the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten tournament, Michigan State finished the regular season 15-13 and 7-10 in conference play. Kamaria McDaniel leads the team in scoring with 13.7 points per game — she scored 24 points against the Hoosiers — followed by Matilda Ekh’s 12.3 points per game.

With the way Indiana has been playing of late — deserving of the No. 2 spot on the AP poll for four consecutive weeks — the team will be favored no matter who their opponent is. However, an upset is never out of the question, especially in the Big Ten.

Multiple teams will be playing for certain seeding in the NCAA tournament as well, adding yet another level of intensity to each game.

“There’s a desperation for some of these teams, and that’s always a concern,” Moren said.

If Indiana wins its first game, its opponent will likely be either Ohio State or Michigan. Michigan will play Penn State Thursday, and the victor of that game will play Ohio State.

If the Hoosiers reach the championship game on March 5, they will likely face either Iowa or Maryland, the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively. The Terrapins look like the juggernaut the program is known to be, recently clobbering Iowa 96-68 and moving up to No. 5 in the final AP poll of the regular season. Iowa, as always, brings heavy competition and intensity to almost every game.

But once again, an upset can’t be ruled out; Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin and Rutgers are also on the other side of the bracket.

Wisconsin seems to be getting hot at the right time, upsetting No. 12 Michigan in the final game of the regular season to extend its winning streak to three games. Illinois has been somewhat of an unrecognized talent in the conference, cracking into the AP poll multiple times this season, and Purdue has the defensive capabilities to force even the toughest teams to compete (i.e.; Indiana).

Very few things are definite in the Big Ten tournament. But one thing is undeniable: Indiana is eager and determined to take charge of its story and will stop at nothing to reach its goals.

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