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Three reasons why Indiana crumbled against Iowa in a nail-biter championship matchup

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana was peaking all the way up from Thursday to Saturday in three hot-blooded matchups. But Sunday afternoon, that peak came up short. 

For the third time in 16 days, the Hawkeyes got the best of the Hoosiers, dancing around in confetti while they celebrated a 74-67 win to name them the 2022 Big Ten women’s basketball champions — the closest conference championship game since 2015.

While Indiana’s field-goal percentage was 38 to the Hawkeyes’ 50, the Hoosiers didn’t necessarily play substandard. They shot 21 percent from beyond the arc to Iowa’s 14, outrebounded the Hawkeyes by two, and had double the amount of second-chance shots than Iowa did. 

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Indiana may have been able to win this game against a different opponent, but against a team with such an astute big like Monica Czinano and Big Ten Player of the Year Caitlin Clark who came in fresh off a record-setting 41 point game against Nebraska on Saturday, small errors really couldn’t be afforded on a game like Sunday’s. 

“Whether it was a little bit of fatigue, tired legs…I’m not sure,” head coach Teri Moren said. “I think we got some really good looks, they just didn’t go down for us.”

Here are three reasons why the title of Big Ten champion slipped through Indiana’s fingers: 

1. There was no game plan for Monica Czinano

As Caitlin Clark reigns as the best player in the entire conference, she’s really not the reason why Iowa won Sunday. In fact, she went 6-for-17 on field goals and scored 18 points, which is way below her season average of 27.7. 

The Hawkeye that capitalized the most off her teammates’ ability to find her so swiftly down low was forward Monica Czinano. Czinano was the best player on the hardwood Sunday and just couldn’t be stopped. She dominated every IU guard and forward in the paint, walking away with 30 points and 10 rebounds. 

“She’s (Czinano) a big part of why they’ll be successful,” Moren said. “When you have Caitlin Clark and a post player like that, that’s a special combination.” 

Half of the time, Czinano never even dribbles the ball; she shoots so fast and maximizes the physicality of every part of her body. If a team is late in doubling Czinano, which Indiana was a few times during this contest, Czinano will always get her way because she is so brisk on the inside with her footing placed, usually, right where it needs to be for that perfect look. 

In previous seasons, before her knee surgery, junior forward Mackenzie Holmes was able to do a pretty good job on Czinano in regard to keeping her farther away from the rim, and she did block a few of her shots Sunday, but regardless, Holmes still isn’t 100 percent. 

“Mack is still not moving as well,” Moren said. “Not as strong from below in terms of her leg strength.” 

Czinano was a tough wrinkle in the way for Indiana in their first two meetings, and on Sunday, she continued to prove why she is a one-of-a-kind big.  

2. The momentum of the game was in constant shift

Unlike Indiana’s previous tournament matchups earlier this week, Sunday’s game wasn’t dominated by the Hoosiers seconds after tipoff. Even in Indiana and Iowa’s two, 48-hour back-to-back matchups in February, either the Hoosiers or Hawkeyes kept a certain momentum over one another for periods of the game. 

Neither team really took control of the game’s momentum from the start, with a lot of back-and -forth runs down the stretch and many one- or two-point temporary lead changes for both teams. Iowa took a short-lived seven-point lead late in the first half, and another late in the fourth quarter, winning it all by seven in the end. 

Something I’ve noticed about the Hoosiers throughout the duration of this tournament is that they need to keep the momentum on their side at all times because ultimately, that is what will secure a win for the players on this specific Indiana team. It could be as simple as one missed free throw, one triple that’s a bit short, or even a poor foul call to throw the Hoosiers off as the Hawkeyes capitalized off their lethargy.

This is an Indiana team that is emotional and passionate, and when they sense they’re falling off — in moments — that confidence kind of falls off with them. 

Overall, it was a hard-fought game. The Hoosiers got many stops in transition to keep the score so close for the entirety of the game, while leading for the majority of the first half. 

3. Indiana’s fire extinguished right when IU needed it the most

Guard Grace Berger entered into the final quarter with four fouls on her back, and in the final minutes, she ultimately fouled out. Both guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary and forward Aleksa Gulbe missed triples near the end, fogging up what was — at times — a clear pathway to victory. 

The Hoosiers were able to turn this contest into a one-possession game up until the last five minutes of the fourth, approximately when the Hawkeyes took back control and went 8-for-12 to end the contest. 

Iowa guard Kate Martin was tremendously aggressive on offense towards the end, which also disrupted the momentum the Hoosiers had accumulated early in the quarter from a 3-point play from Holmes, a Cardaño-Hillary triple, and clutch rebounds from Holmes and Berger. 

‘It’s not the end for us’: Positives from the tournament

Berger had a classic offensive Berger night, leading Indiana with 20 points and tying a team high of seven rebounds. She is the reason why Indiana was above water for the majority of the first half — hitting almost every shot that the Hoosiers needed. 

All of Hoosier Nation knows that Cardaño-Hillary is not someone to mess with, putting away 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. However, the most notable act of her performance Sunday was how well she guarded Clark. 

“This one right here [pointing to Cardaño-Hillary] did a tremendous job on Caitlin Clark today,” Moren said. “She held her at bay. I think she made her uncomfortable for most of the 40 minutes.” 

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This is Holmes’ third game in a row in double figures, posting up 11 points and seven rebounds. Gulbe almost had the exact same night as Holmes, with 11 points and six rebounds. 

As a team, Indiana set an abundance of Big Ten Tournament records over the course of four days. Berger, being the most significant contributor, set a new record for most points in a tournament (63), made field goals (25) and rebounds (30). Patberg may have not had her best game Sunday, but she did tie a program-record eight 3-pointers while Cardaño-Hillary set a new steal record. 

Obviously, this was not the desired outcome for the Hoosiers. But what they were able to accomplish in four days says a lot more about who they are as a team rather than one nailbiter loss to Iowa. 

“It was a great four days for us, we reminded them of that,” Moren said. “And then the biggest thing is we have more basketball. There’s 300 teams plus, maybe 300 plus teams, that today could have been it for them. It’s not the end for us.” 

Moren’s 24-hour rule will apply to this game just as it has to the other seven that they’ve lost this season. They plan on shutting the Big Ten Tournament door, and opening the NCAA one. 

March isn’t over yet.

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