Bloomington- Hoosier fans were treated to some free basketball Thursday night, but ultimately the Michigan State Spartans defeated the Indiana women in overtime at Assembly Hall, 71-65.
The loss was Indiana's fourth in a row and dropped the Hoosiers to 15-8 on the year. The Hoosiers also fall further behind in the conference standings, as they now sit three games behind the league-leading Spartans.
Indiana's shooting woes continued as they made just 18 of 60 field goals, good for 30 percent. In their last six games, the Hoosiers have shot just 31.3 percent from the field. The home team's poor shooting ultimately did them in during the extra period, as it didn't make a field goal until Jori Davis hit a three with 35 seconds left. By then the game was already in hand for a Michigan State team that dominated the inside throughout the game.
"Right now, this one is tough to swallow, because I think we did everything that we could to win this basketball game," said Coach Felisha Legette-Jack.
Davis led the Hoosiers with 19 points, and Jamie Braun overcame a slow start to score 14.
The Spartans had a distinct size advantage with 6-foot-9 center Allyssa DeHaan. The junior finished with a double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. She also added six blocks. With those six blocks, she climbed to 11th all-time in the NCAA for blocked shots. Indiana had a tough time stopping her inside as well during the first half, but clamped down on her in the second. DeHaan was a perfect 6-6 from the field in the first half, but didn't hit a field goal in the second half until she hit a four-foot jumper with nine seconds left to send the game into overtime.
"She was shooting over two of our players, so we decided not to double her [in the second half]," Legette-Jack said. "Amber [Jackson] did a tremendous job of holding her off the block…We just couldn't keep her off the free-throw line."
"They were really doubling her hard. I thought they were pretty physical with her. We opened it up a little bit a spread it out," said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant , who added those factors allowed other players to have good opportunities to drive to the basket and to get to the free-throw line.
In the extra period, Michigan State held IU to just eight points as they went on a 10-0 run to put the game away. Merchant attributed that to her team's defense. "I thought our defense was pretty darn good. I think we were extending, we were switching, which bothered them. I'm going to put it on us and say I thought our kids really buckled down and were all about the defensive end," she said.
Indiana's struggles down the stretch might be due to two key players fouling out in regulation. Senior Kim Roberson fouled out with 2:32 left to play after scoring only two points, and fellow senior Whitney Thomas exited a minute later.
"Both those kids lead them in steals. Both those kids really make big plays, and they're seniors. I felt like, when it went into overtime, without those two kids, we could do it. I felt like as soon as the game went to overtime the game was ours," said Merchant.
Without Roberson and Thomas in the lineup, the Spartans took advantage, as they scored three baskets inside and shot 12 free throws during overtime.
Michigan State won its sixth straight game at Assembly Hall, and coupled with an Ohio State loss to Iowa, moved into first place in the Big Ten.
Indiana now has three games to make up on the Spartans.
"We talk about getting better everyday, and if you came here for the Illinois game and you saw this game tonight, you would agree with me that this team got better. We're not about consolation. We're not about effort with no reward. The game is played and you keep score because somebody has got to win. Our goal is to win basketball games," Legette-Jack said.
The Hoosiers next test will come in the form of the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison. The Badgers are 14-10 overall with a 4-9 conference record.
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