Just last season Sara Scalia wore a different jersey. She faced off against the Hoosiers 13 months ago to the date, dropping 26 points for the Minnesota Gophers against her future team.
Two months later in the second week of April, it was announced that Scalia would wrap up her time with Minnesota after three years to transfer to Indiana. Fast forward 12 months later the Minnesota native, back in her home state, helped the Hoosiers avoid a quarterfinal upset against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament in Minneapolis. In one of her most impressive performances as a Hoosier, Scalia and the Hoosiers survived to push past the Spartans 94-85.
A year ago Scalia was in a much different position with the Gophers but now she finds herself adjusting well to her role at Indiana. Indiana head coach Teri Moren and her staff brought her over from Minnesota to add a scorer off the bench and on an afternoon they needed every single one of her 20 points, she delivered for her team.
“She's willing to do whatever it takes,” Mackenzie Holmes said. “Whether she's coming off the bench, whether she's starting, she's willing to do whatever it takes and I think that speaks volume of her character. Her willingness to defend, her willingness to hit up open shots has been really special to see and I'm glad she's a Hoosier.”
Indiana started the game in an unfamiliar fashion. The Hoosiers looked lifeless on the defensive side of the ball and when it came to scoring, shots simply weren't falling. They only had four made field goals after the opening quarter and were down 10 heading into the second. Scalia had three points in the quarter but it was clear that she was the first option off the bench for Moren.
Scalia would do her best to keep Indiana in the game but the second quarter saw a 3-point shoot-out by Michigan State. The senior guard had five points and was the second-leading scorer behind Holmes in the quarter but the Spartans came out firing 4-for-6 from 3. It felt like any time Michigan State put up a 3, it was going to find a way through the basket.
Going into the half, Indiana needed someone to step up or else the Hoosiers would suffer an early exit in the Big Ten tournament. Holmes led the way but right by her side was Scalia, doing what the Hoosiers brought her over to do.
Not only was the second half much different for the entire team, but Scalia saw herself step up for her team. She would go on to score 12 points in the second half with nine of those coming in the final 10 minutes. Scalia added a lethal scoring presence that Indiana was desperately looking for in order to avoid going home but he did more than just score for the Hoosiers. Scalia added quality minutes off the bench on a night that Sydney Parrish and Grace Berger couldn't get rolling on the offensive end.
Scalia played 26 minutes in the contest, the most of any bench player all afternoon. Her presence on the floor was much needed alongside the production from Holmes as they finished as the top two scorers for the Hoosiers.
Scalia’s ability to score the ball is what brought her over to Bloomington and that was on clear display during the first game of the tournament. Her 20 points are her most since Feb. 13. She shot 50 percent from the field with 4-for-6 shooting from 3, all without missing a single of her eight free throws.
Indiana's strength all year is having multiple players who can take over a game. You look across the entire roster and it's not just one or two players who have gotten Indiana to this point. Friday’s game was another example that when the Hoosiers need it most, someone is always ready to play their role.
“One of the dilemmas that we have is that we feel like we have six starters, Sara being one of those,” Moren said. “Mack said it well, she's just been terrific… She just handled herself in such a beautiful kind of way and you know she works. She is a worker. She’s in before, she stays after and I am not surprised when she talks about her confidence level…All of us, when that thing goes up, if she misses, we are surprised. She is such a great competitor but also a lethal shooter and as Mack said, we are happy she’s a Hoosier.”
Indiana now advances to the semifinals to take on the winner of Michigan and Ohio State on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.