Indianapolis- It took awhile, but Indiana's women's basketball team finally took the lead and pulled away in a 68-50 win over Michigan in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Michigan started the game on 12-0 run, using two Carly Benson 3-pointers to put IU behind the 8-ball early.
"We talk about the eyes, there's something about our kids' eyes. When I look in their eyes, I can almost tell if we're ready. I could never find it in their eyes," Indiana coach Felisha Legette-Jack said about IU's start. "I was just waiting on that moment to click in. With the substitution with Lindsay (Enterline), and Lindsay's eyes were right, and they became contagious."
Enterline entered the contest with IU still scoreless at the 13:08 mark, and immediately made her presence felt by connecting on a three to open the scoring for Indiana. She added another later in the opening half to help the Hoosiers get out of the early offensive funk.
"When you have a freshman come in and hit two big 3s, that helped us believe there was a possibility," Legette-Jack said.
The Hoosiers continued to chip away at the lead as the first half went on, and momentum seemed to shift to the Indiana bench. IU used a full-court press to create turnovers and get easy layups, and had cut the lead to two, 28-26, at half.
"[The pressure] allowed us to generate offense from defense and get us an extra possession," said Indiana sophomore Jori Davis.
Davis led the Hoosiers, scoring a game-high 22 points. Indiana also had seniors Kim Roberson and Amber Jackson score in double figures. The seniors, along with senior Whitney Thomas, combined for 34 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 steals. That senior leadership is something to fall back on for the Hoosiers.
"One of my seniors, Whitney Thomas, kept telling me she needed me. That's something when a senior really needs you to step up. They want it so bad. We're here for the seniors, no doubt about it," Davis said.
Michigan opened the second half with a 6-2 run to push the lead back to six, but that's when Indiana took over. The Hoosiers took their first lead of the game with 11:25 left to play with a steal and layup by Thomas. Thomas' basket was in the midst of a 13-0 run that Indiana used to take the lead by seven with just over 10 minutes to play.
Then Indiana's press took over again.
The Hoosiers forced seven of Michigan's 22 turnovers during the decisive run, and Indiana tied a season-high with 16 steals. The tough defense was something that Michigan coach Kevin Borseth knew would get them in trouble.
"That's kind of what our demise has been all season. Every time someone's pressured us during the year, we've struggled. When people put pressure on us, a lot of times we aren't physically strong enough to be able to handle that," he said.
Michigan junior Krista Phillips led the Wolverines with 13 points and seven rebounds. Early on it looked like she was going to dominate Amber Jackson, but Indiana made the adjustments and didn't let it happen.
"It wasn't Krista stopping Amber, it was Amber stopping Amber," Legette-Jack said. "Amber is one of the best post players in this conference, in my opinion. But she has to go out and represent that every single day."
Up next for Indiana is a quarterfinal matchup with Purdue on Friday at 2 p.m. A win against Purdue would certainly bolster Indiana's NCAA tournament resume, as the Hoosiers currently sit at 19-9 overall and are on the proverbial NCAA bubble.
"Michigan was a good team. Purdue is also a good team. We just come here to do what we have to do to get to that final stage. We're going to play our hardest with the right energy. We can come off successful," Davis said.
Indiana won the only regular-season matchup between the in-state rivals, 71-57 at Assembly Hall in January.
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