No easy way for IU women’s season to end

Not even the biggest spoonful of sugar could help the medicine go down for the Indiana women’s basketball team on Monday night.

Losing one game shy of the Final Four, losing a game that was there for the taking in the fourth quarter, losing a game where the Hoosiers didn’t play their best all added up to disappointment the size of the Grand Canyon, which appropriately enough is in Arizona.

Because when push came to shove, and at one point in the second half it literally did, the Wildcats were the team that made plays, that made shots, and, most of all, that had Aari McDonald on their side.

The Arizona point guard has been putting on a show in this NCAA Tournament, befitting of a Danny Manning or a Carmelo Anthony, who put a team on their shoulders and carried them through the postseason. Both those legends produced national championships, and if McDonald does the same in getting past traditional power UConn and whoever might await in the title game, she might even surpass those famous tales.

Should that be the case, Indiana can take pride in being a footnote to that tale. In the meantime, the Hoosiers can only tip their cap.

“She’s tremendous,” IU coach Teri Moren said. “She’s as fast as a player we’ve faced all year. There’s a reason why she scored 2,000 plus points in her career. You try to play off some other pieces that you consider non-scorers, non-shooters, you get caught in some rotation issues, then give up some horse shots, as we call them, from beyond the arc.

“She’s every bit as good as we thought she was and obviously she’s the reason why they’re going to the Final Four.”

And a big reason Indiana is not.

However, the 13-point final margin notwithstanding, the Hoosiers made their final stand of the season inside the aptly named Alamodome. Less than a mile and a half from the historic walls that define the town of San Antonio, IU fought back time and time again. Trailing almost the entire first quarter, the Hoosiers surged in front to start the second quarter.

After falling down eight in the third quarter, Indiana rallied to tie the game before settling for a two-point deficit to start the fourth quarter.

But down 54-50 with 4:56 remaining, the Hoosiers ran out of bullets and began to run out of bodies. Kiandra Browne twisted an ankle, Aleksa Gulbe fouled out and a non-stop barrage of moving screens that went unwhistled began to take a toll.

The play that finally did Indiana win was as good a summary of the night as any. The Hoosiers’ fullcourt pressure created a deflection of a pass, sending the ball rolling down the middle of the court, but instead of getting a momentum-turning steal, Arizona’s Helena Pueyo redirected the ball like a centering pass in soccer past Ali Patberg and right to former Hoosier Bendu Yeaney for a backbreaking layup.

“Tonight was not our night,” Moren said.

But it has been IU’s month of March, a standard-setting journey for a program that continues to set the bar higher and higher.

“Well, I mean, it’s already been set, right?” Moren said. “That’s what we just talked about in the locker room before I came down here, was getting this tournament experience but also understanding that we want to be back here next year and we want to make that next step to the Final Four.

“People sometimes think that we’re crazy when we said that. We’ve said that from day one when we arrived in Bloomington, that our goals and sights were always going to be set high for this program. We’re still after our Big Ten championship, but we’re certainly still after getting into the NCAA and making deep runs. We’ve proven obviously that we can do that, but we still have unfinished business.”

It wasn’t long ago that 20-win seasons and regular NCAA appearances sounded crazy for Indiana women’s basketball, so why flinch when it comes to Sweet 16s, Elite Eights and Final Fours?

“We want this to be a regular thing,” IU sophomore Mackenzie Holmes said. “We don’t want this to be a surprise to have Indiana in the Elite Eight. We want it to be expected.

“I think that having this opportunity gives us something to build off of. We got an opportunity. That’s all we can ask for, is a chance to play on this big stage. I think now that we got a taste of it, all of us are going to be hungry for more. I think it’s going to pay off in the end for us.”

Just maybe next time the Hoosiers can give somebody else a dose of that disappointing medicine.

17 comments

  1. They took us at least as far as we dared to dream. It was a great ride, as they fired our own passions for their success. They gave us a uniquely single rose that nourished our fandom through the lonely winter of Covid.

    I hope there can yet be some sort-of celebratory recognition of their season so that we fans can gloat over them one time, before we hopefully re-join them in our seats in The Hall next season… maybe just a socially-distanced outdoor event honoring them on the field in conjunction with an IU baseball game at The Bart?

    The link to our closing game press conference follows below.
    Be prepared to watch with pride as Mackenzie and then Coach Moren put a wrap on it for now, but stoke our optimisim for more to come.
    https://iuhoosiers.com/watch/?Archive=15117&type=Live

  2. Love and Congratulations to IU Ladies basketball program Success and People in its entirety they are….

    Side note: Example: Not one Covid case throughout the entire season.

  3. This of course was a very disappointing outcome to what has been the best ever season of women’s basketball at Indiana. But, the future looks bright for our girls! Without knowing for sure, I would not be surprised that Patberg returns next year for the extra season that the NCAA has decided to give to all seniors this year due to the pandemic? Her and anyone else who would join this team next year certainly makes you think that we could make this kind of run again in the tournament? Now that we have had this taste of success, we certainly know what it takes to get the job done! With the future looking so bright, we all need to wear sunglasses for sure:-) Go Hoosiers!!

  4. J.Bee thanks for the link. Holmes is terrific spokesperson and T. Moren is a program builder of success and family.

  5. Just one more thing. This team needs to add a player or 2 that can hit 3 point shots. Most every team that makes it to a final 4 has good 3 point shooters to help them along the way. I have stated it 3 or 4 times this year after games that the weakness of this very good IU team is a lack of accomplished 3 point shooters! This is something that needs to be added to the roster heading into next year! We were zero for 9 from the 3 point line in this game. It was the difference in the game, Arizona was 9 for 21 from 3. The 3 point shot is incredibly important in todays game! If this team expects to get to the final 4 next year, coach Moren needs to add 3 point shooters to our roster either by new recruits or transfers! It is a must in todays game! Our 3 point % on the season with the present roster is 28%. Our best 3 point shooter on the season with over 34 attempts is Grace Berger shooting 32% which is not very good! Patberg is 28%, Gulbe 32%. That will not get the job done! We need to strengthen this part of our game to be competitive in big games! 3 point shooting is such a big part of todays game! Go Hoosiers!

  6. Congrats to the women’s team on a great season…Fantastic milestone in getting to an Elite Eight.

  7. Ditto Mike C. I remember one or two games this year where Indiana made 3’s but just very unstable in this part of game. Often, IU Ladies are not prepared in a sure way to shoot 3 ball meaning it’s always often shot awkward or very unsure and hope rather than with feet set and 100% focused with confidence. I agree adding a couple 3 point shooters….There has to be a balance to fit in T. Moren system. I think that’s where super star players come into play that T. Moren has not been able to recruit. Gulbe has no chance of hitting her 3’s against Arizona. She looked very uncomfortable awkward and internally frustrated. Having said all this I seriously wonder if IU has a couple of players already on the team including Gulbe in off season could be dedicated to 3 point repetition shooting plays… Patberg, Berger, Price, along with C-Hillary and incoming freshman plus adding a player. Yes, agree 100% teams sure look a lot better win 3 ball is going down as not only IU Ladies but in both, Ladies and men’s basketball game. In this tournament IU Ladies shot
    3 for 29 in 4 tournament games….which leads to ???? to match this season’s success. There has to be development with 2 players on current Ladies team and another one incoming recruits to shoot 3 ball. Mike C. you are right 3 ball has been problem area or weakness in T. Moren era. However, I think some of the problem has to be fixed from within because I don’t see a total fix from outside.

  8. You absolutely cannot win if you’re not a traditional power without players who can shoot beyond the arc this game was there to be had they struggled i made the point about the mens team they need to add the 3 to their respective games make it a point to shoot a few hours a day repetition is the only way they’ll get better and maybe make that final four trip instead of coming up short

  9. extra point of 3 ball… when the opponent (in this case IU) gets very few, very few to hardly any takes its toll on all the effort and work trying to win a game. IU Ladies do well up to around top 15-20 ranked teams. 4 seed was pretty accurate for IU Ladies as there season ranking was consistently between 10 to 15…with a season high in top 10.

  10. Congratulations Coaches and players!
    Very bright future ahead!
    Next year we follow you IN PERSON!!
    Go Hoosiers!

  11. Im so very proud of this team and I know they will be back. One fact stands out like the elephant in the room, defense can take you only so far , without the ability to hit the 3 on a consistent basis[0 -9] in this one . For Deep runs in the tourney you have to have it. It was so enjoyable to watch this team go where IU has never been before [ncaa format] , sweet 16 and elite 8,,, maybe next year.

    1. IU Ladies 3-29 in 4 tournament games from 3. So they rode their horse as far as they could. However, Arizona was more physical and IU Ladies throughout the game had difficulty getting clean looks at the basket. Arizona beat IU Ladies at their own game which was defense. Then, add 3 ball and offensive rebounds equals win for Arizona Ladies and loss for IU Ladies. IU Ladies didn’t play well but Arizona Ladies caused it as well. Arizona Ladies gave IU Ladies more problems than IU Ladies gave Arizona Ladies.

  12. Except for the loss- What a game. They never gave up, behind by 4 points with 5 to go. Seemed like they were a made 3 away from taking and maintaining the lead. Not sure if I ever watched a game where a team did not make a 3.

    Holmes just gets better and better.

    Next year. Penn is a Senior, Take the extra year or just call it over?
    Ali and Nicole both Seniors, either to take the extra year? Is that an option for
    Nicole? (I hope so)
    Warthen, take the extra year?
    I would think this season may have opened some eyes of recruits. Shooters needed

    Congratulation Hoosier Ladies and Coaches for an epic season !

  13. Because Holmes is so good inside if IU had the outside shot it would open things up but until that happens on a consistent basis teams will sag in on IU. Wouldnt it be ironic if holmes was the one who started moving outside and hitting 3 s next season. Some players can develop it some cant [3 pt]. Did the NCST game take that much out of IU they seemed tired and slow.

  14. Arizona beat Texas A & M after IU vs NC State game….IU Ladies have a tendency to lose a game or two after a string of wins. Example: Michigan State in big ten tournament. Bottom line: IU Ladies did get over the hump this year as they drove to elite 8 and solid national ranking. The good news is T. Moren wants more and recognizes no big ten championship and final 4 and boldly says IU Ladies will be back.

  15. As far as Holmes shooting 3 ball then inside game from others needed. However, it is feasible Holmes could be a part of 3 ball…she is the type of player that would accept the challenge…it’s important that IU Ladies don’t get to far away from what they do best because it isn’t like an overhaul is needed. Rather a couple tweaks.

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