Indiana women’s basketball was flying high in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
But the top-seeded Hoosiers quickly crashed down in the second half in Minneapolis. No. 4 seed Ohio State surged out of the locker room and completely flipped the game. The Buckeyes trailed by 20 at halftime, but made the biggest comeback in Big Ten Tournament history and won, 79-75, to advance to the championship game.
Ohio State (25-6) will face the winner of the other semifinal between Maryland and Iowa on Sunday.
“We knew that they were not going to go away in the second half after the first half that we had,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “So the message was to erase the score. We knew that the press was going to come out, and that’s on me. It’s not on these kids. We just didn’t handle ourselves the way we needed to.”
IU (27-3) completely faltered against Ohio State’s press defense on Saturday. The Hoosiers committed 18 turnovers, tied for their third-most in a game all season. 14 of those came in the second half. And Ohio State turned those giveaways into 19 points, a major difference in the game.
Sydney Parrish and Chloe Moore-McNeil committed four turnovers each. Grace Berger led Indiana with 20 points.
Moren said the Buckeyes ran a different press than IU was used to seeing from them, as they denied initial inbounds passes and then continued to aggressively deny cross-court passes, restricting IU’s ball-handlers to a tighter space.
“We got it down into the deep corners way too often. We struggled. Our inbounders Syd and Yarden (Garzon) struggled with making the right decisions,” Moren said. “Again, that’s on us. That’s on me and our staff of not being able to help them with a better press attack. And really just calm them down a little bit.”
This is now three straight games with red flags for Indiana — and not the type that are paraded around at home games in Bloomington.
The Hoosiers survived against Michigan State on Friday despite trailing at halftime and similarly struggling against press defense. They exploded in And IU fell at the buzzer against Iowa, after trailing for most of the game. Indiana’s defense wasn’t quite good enough that day in Iowa City, as Iowa was able to get more from its secondary options than it did when IU won in Bloomington.
That game-winning 3-pointer by Caitlin Clark hurt for IU, but this Ohio State loss might sting even more.
Moren said her team has been worn out, both mentally and physically, of late. The Hoosiers had three games in seven days this week, including back-to-back games in the Big Ten Tournament, after having a full week between games leading up to the Iowa loss.
Particularly, Mackenzie Holmes was not 100 percent against the Buckeyes. She shot below 50 percent from the field for the first time all season, and seemed to have a little more trouble than usual with Ohio State’s physicality.
“We’re all a little nicked up right now. I think all of them are. We do have some things health-wise that this period will be really good for a lot of different reasons,” Moren said. “I think we’re all looking forward to just getting a little bit of a break here before the other madness starts.”
Indiana will now wait to learn its NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday, March 12. The Hoosiers, a No. 1 seed in both of the NCAA’s early bracket reveals, are essentially assured a top-16 seed, which will mean hosting the first two rounds at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.