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The Game That Turned the Season Around

It was a near improbable turnaround.

Indiana, coming off three straight losses to ranked opponents, limped into East Lansing for a January 20 matchup at Michigan State. They were 8-12 overall and 1-6 in the Big Ten. A road trip was on the horizon to a team they had already lost to by 20.

The plane touched down in East Lansing to news that the men’s team, who was in town at the time, was down 20. Not ideal circumstances, but the women had their own game to worry about.

Once Saturday morning came around, East Lansing was quiet. It was a sunny day and snow was still on the ground when the bus left the hotel for a morning shootaround. The Hoosiers were the first ones into the Breslin Center that day just hours removed from their men counterparts losing by 28.

But there was a different energy about the team. Assistant coach Rhet Wierzba felt extra excited for the shootaround. The Hoosiers were going through some sets they were expecting to see from Michigan State (and they did see the exact play they were practicing with the game on the line).

After shootaround, the Hoosiers went back to the hotel for a final film session and lunch. During their final meal before the departure for the Breslin Center, their 22-point loss was on the background. Whether it was for motivation or something different didn’t matter. This team was hungry (no pun intended) and this was a turning point game win or lose.

Getting off the bus, the team was ready. The coaches were motivating their players and the players responded. Whatever they did worked.

When the game tipped off, Tyra Buss needed eight points to reach 2,000 for her career. She got that in no time because the Hoosiers ended the first quarter 13-of-15 from the field and made all seven of their three point attempts.

The near 12,000 people were quiet. IU led by 19.

But for the Hoosiers, they weren’t going to be let off the hook that easy. Michigan State chipped away and won the individual final three quarters of the game. Jaelynn Penn hit one of the biggest three-pointers of the season late in the fourth quarter.

It gave IU breathing room when a Michigan State three-pointer circled the rim before deciding to fall to the floor.

That was all she wrote. The Hoosiers, who nearly everyone counted out, had a road win. They were back on track.

The team bus leaving the arena was happy, and probably a bit relieved that they got back on track with a road win, of all things. It set them up nicely for a four-game home stand.

But before returning to Bloomington, one more stop was needed: Cold Stone.

It may have been close to 30 degrees outside that night, but nothing could have cooled off the Hoosiers for the rest of the season. The Michigan State win was the start of an eight-game win streak that put them in position to play postseason basketball.

There was the overtime win vs. Northwestern where IU couldn’t score down the stretch. There was the road win at Minnesota too.

The Michigan State win may have been the most impressive win of the eight, but the win over Nebraska on Senior Day was the most important.

For Buss and Amanda Cahill, it was a win they almost had to have. The best duo in IU women’s basketball history had to have it and they got it.

Little did they know, they’d get six more games at Assembly Hall. And even better for them, they won all six.

They were already the best duo in IU women’s basketball history.

But just like their ice cream in East Lansing, it was a cherry on top.

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