IU women’s wrap: Wisconsin

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana attacked the basket, finished with three players in double figures and took care of Wisconsin, 76-69, before an announced 3,570 at Assembly Hall.

Larryn Brooks scored a game-high 22 points and Alexis Gassion added 14 points, but it was Simone Deloach’s double-double (14 points, 14 rebounds) that helped the Hoosiers avenge last month’s loss to the Badgers in Madison. The win is Indiana’s second in a row, doubling its Big Ten win total from a year ago.

It also marks the first time since the 1993-94 season that the Hoosiers have 17 wins through their first 23 games.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: As I mentioned in my game story for Sunday’s paper, Deloach delivered on her 22nd birthday. IU coach Curt Miller approached her before the game and told her that a double-double would be the best gift she could get. In a matchup with Connecticut transfer and top Badger playmaker Michala Johnson, Deloach came through. Playing tough against Johnson (21 points) was at least part of the reason why she ended up fouling out with two minutes to go, but Deloach provided a huge (and necessary) scoring boost from the center position.

“She was huge,” Miller said. “Michala Johnson is a really, really talented player. A lot of people have had trouble defending her. I thought she really battled and made it as difficult as possible. We talked at length about the 17 or so missed shots from 5 feet and in the first time. They’re a tremendous shot-blocking team. They make you make shots and we found ways to score in the paint. That was the difference tonight — the discrepancy in points in the paint. You wouldn’t have necessarily thought that going into the game with Michala Johnson going up against us.

“A lot of those points are Simone’s. There was a concerted effort tonight to get points in the paint tonight and, fortunately, it worked. It wasn’t always pretty. We had some shots blocked (five) and missed some opportunities (20-of-48 inside the arc), but it was a concerted effort most of the night to get the ball into the paint and Simone anchored that and was the person that really helped us do that.”

Deloach’s 14 points matched her career high, while her 14 rebounds (six offensive) tied her season high.

KEY STAT: Points in the paint — Indiana 40, Wisconsin 28.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I think it’s important to listen to his messages rather than his screaming and his animated self. I just like to go out and contribute to what I can. If he asks me to do something, I try to get it done.”
— Simone Deloach on how she felt about Miller yelling to his team to get the ball to her at different points in Saturday’s game.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: If sure feels like Indiana has come a long way since the Northwestern offensive debacle of a week ago. Miller admitted after Saturday’s game that he didn’t want that ugly loss to the Wildcats to haunt his team the rest of the way and, worse yet, be the difference between an invitation to a postseason tournament and another quiet March in Bloomington.

So, the Hoosiers responded by beating two teams — Illinois and Wisconsin — that, frankly, they should be in a position to beat this season.

With those two wins out of the way, here comes a very important stretch of games starting with Thursday’s contest against first-place Penn State. A win over the Nittany Lions would do wonders for Indiana’s postseason resume. The Hoosiers played them kinda/sorta close last month in State College during a game in which neither team played particularly well. It was, as those within the IU program would agree, a strange game. After hosting the Lions, Indiana heads to third-place Nebraska on Feb. 16 before returning to Assembly Hall for a game with Michigan on Feb. 19. The Hoosiers obviously need at least one win in that stretch, and probably two in order to become a legitimate NCAA Tournament team. Of course, winning out at home (a task that, in addition to Michigan and Penn State, includes a rematch with Illinois on Feb. 22), would be a huge boost to their NCAA Tournament bid.

Perhaps this kind of talk is a bit premature. Indiana first needs to take care of Penn State on Thursday. A win there opens up plenty of doors.

And I’m sure just the thought of a tournament bid sounds pretty good to IU fans.

NOTABLE:
— Miller said that the team is still waiting on a final diagnosis on redshirt sophomore Kaila Hulls (Bloomington South). Hulls, who hasn’t played since the Northwestern game and saw the floor only sparingly during conference play, wore a boot on her left foot at practice this week and during Saturday’s game.

“There’s a strong likelihood that a suspected stress fracture will keep her out for the remainder of the year, but we don’t final confirmation on that,” Miller said. “She’ll be a little day-to-day, but she’ll undergo more testing before we have the final diagnosis.”

— The four wins in Big Ten play are the most since Indiana won seven during the 2009-10 season.
— IU’s 17th win is its most since winning 21 games in 2008-09.
— With seven turnovers, Saturday was the seventh time this season that the Hoosiers committed less than 10. They are 6-1 when doing so.
— Deloach’s double-double was her third of the season.
— Alexis Gassion has scored 36 points over her last two games. It comes immediately after a three-game stretch where Gassion went 0-for-14 from the field.
— Karlee McBride scored eight points in 11 minutes off the bench.

Video above courtesy of IU Athletics