INDIANAPOLIS — Less than 24 hours after its most dramatic win in recent history, Indiana will retake the court to face No. 2 Maryland inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The obvious obstacle that looms large for IU? What all athletes dread after such a physical performance like Indiana’s last night — fatigue. Fatigue brought on by a game that took Indiana and Michigan State to four periods of overtime and which both seniors Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill played 60 minutes of basketball.
“We’ve been talking a lot during the week about making the season count the most and just working together,” Cahill said.
And Thursday, worked together they did.
While Buss struggled to find her shot Thursday (8-of-26) — Cahill, along with a host of other Hoosiers, was there to pick up the slack when IU needed it most. Cahill was consistently impressive, shooting 14-of-20 from the field en route to a career-high 38 points on the night.
“That’s what seniors do and that’s what you expect them to do,” head coach Teri Moren said. “We’ve talked about their sense of urgency with the season winding down and playing in the tournament. Amanda was really great tonight and we needed her to be.”
In an uncharacteristic performance for IU’s senior leader, Buss fought to find other ways to contribute.
“When my shot’s not falling, I can’t get down on myself because I can’t let my teammates see me like that,” Buss said. “I just have to find a way to help the team in other ways. Whether that’s rebounding, whether that’s assists, or finding the open player.”
The Hoosiers will hope to leave any thoughts of team weakness aside and instead look to last night’s performance as a source of motivation and belief for tonight’s matchup against Maryland.
“The first game’s always the toughest and once you get that first game you have a little bit of momentum and hopefully our kids have some confidence,” Moren said.
Indiana has played back-to-back days on two separate occasions already this season in late November (defeated UAB, lost to St. Mary’s) and December (lost to Missouri, lost to Virginia). Despite the losses, the Hoosiers handled recovering well and individual performances didn’t appear to be hindered in any significant way. Surely going up against Maryland tonight will be a different beast altogether, but the Hoosiers knows what ensues.
“It’s a great opportunity we have against a really good Maryland team,” Moren said. “We lost a close one to them in D.C. I think our kids are eager just for another opportunity to play together and be together.”
The Hoosiers are coming off a 60 minute game and less than 24 hours’ rest. Maryland hasn’t played a game since Sunday.
To help counter that inherent advantage, Indiana will need to play similar to the way they did last time the two programs met, back on January 16th in College Park. Cahill and Penn went for 18 points apiece, followed by Buss’s 14 in a 74-70 win for the Terps. Most importantly, IU played Maryland close the whole way and relatively contained Maryland’s Kaila Charles and Eleanna Christinaki.
Maryland has been streaky down the stretch, losing three straight to Purdue, Minnesota, and Michigan before Sunday’s win over Nebraska.
Of course it’s a challenge, but then again, so goes everything for Indiana this year; fighting adversity has been the message. If tonight’s set of circumstances doesn’t define adversity, nothing can.
“Obviously we started rough in the Big Ten and then we went on that 8 game winning streak, it just shows our growth,” Buss said. “Coming in with five freshmen and only having two seniors and four returners, it’s could’ve went either way.”
With the added adversity following last night’s quadruple overtime finish — and an even tougher test now against one of the conference’s best — Friday’s meeting may serve as an accumulation for that growth.
“It’s going to be pure adrenaline,” Moren said. “They’re a little fatigued but I think once the ball goes up, the adrenaline will kick in and we’ll be fine.”