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In convincing win, Indiana sets sights on championship run

Tyra Buss lets go a 3-pointer in IU’s convincing 73-51 win over Purdue. (Mark Timko/HN)

In sports, the difficulty of beating a team three times, in one season, is often documented.

In the WNIT’s third round Thursday night, Indiana had very little trouble in accomplishing that — let alone against its rival. Backed with stifling defense and Assembly Hall’s largest crowd since 2012, Indiana finished off a wire-to-wire victory over Purdue, 73-51.

“I hate to say it’s just another game,” Moren said. “Because it is an in-state rivalry with Purdue. We’re probably going to look back and have a lot of really great memories and Purdue is just going to be one of those that gets mentioned.”

The WNIT is not where Teri Moren and Indiana expected to be. The Hoosiers returned its best duo in school history, with Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill returning for their senior seasons. Moren secured the program’s highest-rated recruit in history, with Jaelynn Penn. But the WNIT is where they are now — and three games through, it appears Moren’s team is setting its sights on a championship run. After all, these are the final games of the illustrious careers of Buss and Cahill.

The crowd was fitting for the moment, with an announced crowd of 5,564 on Thursday night. Because of Moren and Fred Glass’ commitment to hosting WNIT games, the Hoosiers will be at home Sunday against the winner of Kansas State/UC Davis in the quarterfinals. Indiana has dominated its WNIT run — all three games have been decided by more than 20 points.

On Thursday night, for the third time in this campaign, there was no question who the better team was. Indiana outscored Purdue on turnovers, 24-8. IU’s offense was able to consistently attack inside, routing the Boilermakers 42-28 in the paint. Buss went for a relatively effortless 24 points, six assists, and four rebounds. Penn splashed a pair of 3-pointers to continue her effective role as a contributing scoring threat.

“It’s a six-game series and this was step three,” Buss said of the WNIT. “It just so happened we were playing Purdue again. We’ve played them two times so we just were really familiar with them.”

The quarterfinal round was where Indiana saw its season end a year ago, against Villanova. These postseason games are precious, not just for IU’s senior duo, but for the development of its rising freshmen in Penn, Bendu Yeaney, Linsey Marchese, and Keyanna Warthen. And beating Purdue for a third time — in the rivalry’s first-ever postseason meeting? Clearly there is much to play for here.

As aforementioned, Indiana will play next at 2 p.m. Sunday in the WNIT quarterfinals, or Elite Eight. The program has reached 20 wins for its third consecutive season, dating back to a historic NCAA Tournament appearance (and victory) in 2015-16. The WNIT is not where Indiana would prefer to be. But it’s giving the program’s best duo an opportunity to claim a championship right at home.

“That was an amazing crowd,” Buss said. “We hope they keep coming back and giving us their support as long as we keep playing. They just gave us an extreme amount of energy. It was really electric and it just made it really fun to play in there.”

Teddy Bailey

I am a junior from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, studying in IU’s School of Global and International Studies. Prior to joining The Hoosier Network, I spent two seasons covering IU Athletics for the Indianapolis Star alongside Zach Osterman after becoming the Sports Editor of the Indiana Daily Student as a freshman. This past summer, I interned with The Philadelphia Inquirer — my hometown paper. In case you want to talk cheesesteaks or the Philadelphia 76ers, you can find me on Twitter, @ByTeddyBailey.

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