Indiana Wins the WNIT Championship!

It was the final send-off for beloved seniors Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill.  It was an all-time attendance record at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.  And quite frankly, this WNIT Championship game was over before it started.  It’s time to raise another banner in Bloomington.

To be sure, Virginia Tech was good.  Very good.  But Indiana just wasn’t going to lose this game, on this day, in front of that crowd.  After a recount it was announced that 13,007 fans showed up to support this deserving team, obliterating the previous program record by nearly 3,000 people.

Photo via Jessica Caraway

The game started out with both teams looking a little nervous in front of the large crowd.  IU and Virginia Tech struggled to knock down shots from the perimeter.  Indiana got an early spark from reserve Keyanna Warthen who picked up a couple 1st quarter baskets at the rim to help IU get out to a 17-13 first quarter lead.

Despite continuing to struggle from the perimeter, the Hoosiers were able to stretch out to a 36-27 halftime lead.  Indiana held a 26-12 advantage with points in the paint at the half, as the Hoosiers started to attack the rim.  Indiana was also solid on the defensive end, holding the Hokies to 34.5% shooting from the field and forcing 10 first half turnovers.

What a great send off for two great seniors.  via @IUCrimsonGuard

IU opened the second half strong, running out to an 11 point lead.  It looked for a moment like they might run away with this game like they had every other WNIT game along the way.  But Virginia Tech stepped-up its effort, threw some effective zone defense at the Hoosiers, and started to control the glass.  Before the 3rd quarter came to an end the Hokies had turned an 11 point deficit into a 1 point lead.

At one point in the fourth quarter Indiana was 0-13 from 3-point range.  After back and forth play to start the final segment, Bendu Yeaney finally broke through with a corner 3-pointer with 4:49 remaining that stretched the IU lead back to six and forced a Hokie timeout.

Then Indiana’s seniors stepped up.  First Amanda Cahill knocked down a 3-pointer, then Tyra Buss scored on a dribble drive to extend the lead to nine with 3:32 remaining.  The Hoosiers were able to hold onto the lead the rest of the way by making enough free throws down the stretch.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Indiana’s tenacious starting five formed into a group hug and then found themselves covered in streamers as time expired.  It was time to celebrate the first championship in program history, and a title that seemed impossible when IU sat at 8-12 back in January.  Indiana finished the year on an improbable 15-2 run to finish at 23-14 and win the WNIT championship.

The Hoosiers got a balanced effort on the day, with solid performances by Yeaney (14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists), Kym Royster (9 points, 5 rebounds) and Jaelynn Penn (10 points, 10 rebounds).  Penn’s efforts on the boards late in the game were particularly noteworthy.

Perhaps today wasn’t the best statistical day for Buss and Cahill, but this team, this season, this run and that crowd were all about the IU seniors.  In the waning moments you could see it on their faces.  Buss and Cahill were gassed.  They never came out of the game.  They gave it their all.  For four amazing years.  And they finished their careers as champions.

via @TaylorRLehman

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