Indiana falls 79-75 to Ohio State in heartbreaking loss in Big Ten Tournament semifinal
Regret, sadness, frustration and motivation.
With voices wavering, Teri Moren and Grace Berger exhibited those emotions Saturday, which could only be felt after losing a 24-point deficit and falling short of reaching the Big Ten Championship game.
Indiana fell to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals Saturday, dropping what was at one point a 24-point lead and losing 79-75.
Traditionally a second-half team, the Hoosiers came out sloppy and unable to adjust to the Buckeyes’ press. They turned the ball over 14 times and shot 8-for-29 from the field, giving the Buckeyes all the room they needed to make a comeback.
“We knew that the press was going to come out,” Moren said postgame. “And that’s on me, it’s not on these kids. We just didn’t handle ourselves the way we needed to.”
The postgame press conference was somber, as both Moren and Berger shouldered the weight of answering the question of what exactly happened in that second half.
In regular season matchups against Ohio State, Indiana handled the press — it wasn’t always pretty, but Indiana found ways to adapt and work around the press. Saturday, it was the opposite.
“I think they did a better job of denying the ball in,” Berger said. “You have Jacy Sheldon back, and she makes a big difference. She’s quick, she’s athletic, she’s really good.”
Ohio State’s defense was the key to the Buckeyes’ success and the Hoosiers’ downfall. Time and time again, the Hoosiers failed to properly inbound the ball or effectively push through the press to find scoring opportunities.
“Their press was different,” Moren said. “They denied the ball inbounds, that was different. They were denying the reversal pass, that was different than we had seen at their place and certainly at our place. So their press, they did tweak it and it was more aggressive.”
In facing Sheldon, who had been out much of the regular season with an injury, Indiana had yet another uber-athletic player to deal with. And they weren’t up to the task at the end of the day.
It was a surprise to everyone: coaches, players and fans alike.
“When you have a veteran team the way we do, you just — inside, I have so much confidence in them that I think they’re going to figure it out,” Moren said. “And certainly that’s sort of where my mind was: ‘We’re going to figure this thing out.’”
But Ohio State came into the second half with a vengeance not even Indiana’s most experienced players could get ahold of. Turnovers plagued momentum and poise, forcing “home run” plays that often didn’t work, and shots Indiana should have made didn’t fall.
The Hoosiers couldn’t figure it out, and Moren takes that blame herself.
“Maybe I should’ve called an earlier timeout just to make sure they had confidence and instill composure and poise into them,” she said. “Give them good juice.”
But no matter what regrets Moren or the rest of the team has about Saturday’s performance, their season isn’t over and they know it. They’ll await the NCAA tournament selection show on March 12 to see their next opponent.
Until then, they’ll only use this loss to get better.
“I think it’s going to sting for a couple days, but once we get practicing back this week I think we’ll use it as motivation for sure,” Berger said. “(We’ll) figure out how to get better from it.”
And despite the long faces and tears threatening to fall, the Hoosiers know this: they’re a good basketball team. Saturday was only their third loss, and it came to a top-25 team. Two of their three losses have come to top-25 teams.
In fact, Indiana is one of three teams in power conferences with three losses or fewer. The other two teams are LSU and South Carolina. Indiana’s ultimate goal is not out of reach.
“This is a team that’s won 27 games,” Moren said. “We have three hiccups. They’ve had a great year.”