It is late March in Indiana, and save for the Pacers, basketball has largely gone dormant in this hoops crazed state.
There is one other team still playing. And just like water always finds its level, Hoosiers are finding their basketball. As connoisseurs of the game, Hoosiers won’t just watch any basketball. No, Hoosiers require something more, and the Indiana University women’s basketball team is delivering it in front of big crowds.
On Wednesday night, IU defeated Texas Christian 71-58 to advance to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) championship game. The Hoosiers will face Virginia Tech for the WNIT Championship on Saturday at 3:00 PM at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington. In their five WNIT games thus far, the Hoosiers have won by an average margin of 18.8 points per game.
After a tight first quarter, the Hoosiers got it rolling in the second segment. IU turned consecutive TCU turnovers into fast break points and a 7-0 run gave the Hoosiers an 8-point cushion. TCU would pull back to within 4 at the break, but early 2nd half 3-pointers by Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill stretched the lead back to 10, and from there the Hoosiers never looked back.
It was a balanced attack for the Hoosiers on night. The usual suspects led the way as Buss and Cahill were the top scorers with 22 and 14 points respectively. Jaelynn Penn, Bendu Yeaney and Kym Roster all reached double figures as well.
Yeaney led the Hoosiers with 4 assists and added 9 rebounds. Royster led the way on the boards with 10. Cahill added 3 steals.
Buss added two 3-pointers on the day and is now three short of the Indiana all-time record of 206 career 3-pointers made.
After struggling on the defensive end during the first half of the season, IU turned in another impressive effort against TCU. The Horned Frogs shot only 34.8% on the game. Based on head coach Teri Moren’s assessment, the Hoosiers won the game on that end of the floor. The large and boisterous home crowd almost certainly played a role in that number as well. The Hoosiers also dominated on the glass, with a 38-19 rebounding edge.
? Highlights from Indiana’s WNIT semifinals win over TCU! ⚪? pic.twitter.com/gQzeBeeF4y
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) March 29, 2018
An impressive crowd of 6,001 watched Indiana defeat UC Davis on Sunday. That crowd was a season high, and a mark that stood for exactly 3 days. Hoosier fans stepped it up in a big way for the WNIT national semifinal against TCU. Wednesday’s attendance was 7,815 — the 4th most in program history.
Sure, some of these tickets are being sold because IU fans have justifiably fallen in love with seniors Buss and Cahill. And who could blame them? But the duo has been in Bloomington for four years, and we haven’t seen attendance like we are seeing over the last couple weeks. Take a look at the season attendance averages over the three prior seasons:
2017 – 2,955
2016 – 2,894
2015 – 2,617
Keep in mind, these gaudy attendance numbers over the last few games are for the WNIT. It is supposed to be the island of misfits tournament, or the not-invited tournament if you prefer. It just doesn’t matter. Give Hoosier fans good basketball, and they will show up.
It’s interesting to look back at the last time the IU men’s program hosted a NIT home game at Assembly Hall in 2005. When the Hoosiers faced Vanderbilt on March 16 of that year the attendance was 5,113. Now we don’t raise this to somehow compare the men’s and women’s programs. This IU women’s team and their determined seniors are doing just fine without that.
The point here is just to further illustrate that Hoosier fans know good basketball when they see it. That 2005 men’s team was a checked-out train wreck. This 2018 women’s team is on a mission.
Since a road loss to Maryland on January 16th, IU has gone 14-2 through Wednesday’s victory over TCU. On the season the Hoosiers improved their record to 22-14. You might have even heard that they completed a 3-game sweep of Purdue along the way.
Now it all comes down to this. IU is hosting the WNIT Championship game on Saturday afternoon. This will be the last chance for Hoosiers to watch a college basketball game in their home state. It will be “Senior Day Round 2” as Buss and Cahill called it. Better dust off the balcony seats at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
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Photo credit – Indiana University