LEXINGTON, Ky. — While we will have to wait another two-plus years for Indiana and Kentucky to resume their rivalry on the hardwood, the two met Tuesday night on the pitch at Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex.
There wasn’t a crazy buzzer-beater that led to the crowd storming the field, but those who traveled were treated to an entertaining match between two schools that have failed to meet expectations in 2023.
Indiana and Kentucky settled for a 1-1 draw in a tight, hard-fought back-and-forth contest.
“Yeah, it was an entertaining game,” head coach Todd Yeagley said. “I thought we were much more disciplined defensively and didn’t give up the moments that they gave us, quite honestly.”
It was another match where the Hoosiers changed the starting lineup around. Karsen Henderlong started up top for the first time this year in place of Luka Bezerra and the Xavier transfer wasted no time making an impact.
Henderlong scored in the 12th minute after an attempted through-ball was deflected and fell to the feet of the second-year Hoosier who hit a rocket on his weaker left foot to give Indiana its first lead in two weeks.
Yeagley has emphasized that Indiana was due for some luck with bounces in or around the 18-yard box and it happened not once but twice in the build-up to the breakthrough.
Yeagley also thought Henderlong played well in the Michigan match a week ago and wanted to “ride that” by giving him the start against the Wildcats.
The top seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament did not back down after conceding, earning a penalty 12 minutes later as the referee pointed to the spot. Kentucky put the ball in the back of the net after play was halted but after a VAR check the original decision held true.
The past two penalties Indiana goalkeeper JT Harms faced prior to Tuesday’s did not end well for Indiana. One was a national championship-winner last December (Syracuse) and the other was a game-winner Sept. 22 (Michigan State).
However, the third time turned out to be the charm for Harms, as he stopped Finn Ballard McBride’s shot from 12 yards to maintain the visitor’s lead.
“Those are moments for a keeper that you can really take that and be a confidence booster,” Yeagley said.
Harms was already in great form entering the match, but held with Ballard McBride’s stutter and comfortably made the save.
Harms may have boosted his own confidence, but just moments later the Wildcats were able to find the back of the net on a long throw that was tucked away by Eoin Martin on the half-volley, leaving the Indiana goalkeeper with no chance to deny Martin his first goal as a Wildcat.
From that goal at the half-hour mark on there were no more goals but the match certainly did not lack any unforgettable moments.
There were six yellow cards handed out in a very physical tussle, including one to Kentucky head coach Johan Cedergren, who voiced his displeasure on more than one occasion.
Afterwards, Yeagley thought there were a few times Indiana didn’t receive the benefit of the doubt when it came to calls inside the opposing penalty box.
“I thought their center backs were a little aggressive,” Yeagley said. “I thought there was probably two that he could have called but we’re not getting it.”
While Indiana may have not gotten the calls they have wanted despite being the much more disciplined team historically, they can’t put all the blame on the referee. The Hoosiers had two chances back-to-back in the second half but couldn’t find the finishing touch with loose balls lurking in the 6-yard box.
“We’ve been saying if we get better services, we’re going to either score or have a second ball sitting there,” Yeagley said. “And it was sitting there tonight.”
Kentucky went down to 10 men with five minutes to play as Mathias Yohannes was shown a second yellow and thus an opportunity for an early shower, but the Hoosiers couldn’t find the match-winner.
It may have been another solid performance from the Hoosiers where they were unable to come up with a victory, but Yeagley has all the confidence in the world that more goals and wins are in the cards considering how disciplined and talented the back-line is.
Next up for Indiana is a trip to Happy Valley to take on No. 19 Penn State. The Hoosiers are 3-3-4 (0-2-1 B1G) and the Nittany Lions are 6-1-3 (2-0-1 B1G). Despite the stark difference in record, Yeagley believes his team can beat anyone in the country.
“We’re right in a good spot,” Yeagley said. “You know, our eyes are still on winning it, let alone positioning.”
The good news is we won’t have to wait until December 2025 to find out how close Indiana is to the top of the Big Ten.