By Jerome Bingham
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — With 19.8 seconds to play, Indiana seniors Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill checked out of the quarterfinal game of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament for the final time. As they walked to the Hoosiers’ bench, fans from both teams in Bankers Life Fieldhouse stood and gave them a standing ovation.
This may have the final game in an Indiana jersey for Buss and Cahill as the Hoosiers fell to the Maryland Terrapins, 67-54. Maryland, 24-6, advanced to Saturday’s semifinal against Nebraska and extended its perfect record in Big Ten tournament play to 10-0. The Hoosiers, 17-14, could be facing the end of their season.
The Terrapins, defending Big Ten champions and the No. 2 seed, expressed a lot of respect for the Hoosier seniors who fought hard after outlasting Michigan State in quadruple overtime the night before.
“Playing almost three hours of basketball and able to come back tonight and play very hard, I really respect the team and the coaches and everything,” Maryland sophomore Kaila Charles said about the Hoosiers.
Charles led the Terrapins with 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting, with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Charles exceeded 20 points for the tenth time this season and scored in double figures for the 27th time. The seventh-seeded Hoosiers had trouble figuring out how to slow her down.
“She’s a superb athlete but has enough wiggle to get to the basket,” said Indiana coach Teri Moren. “We blew a lot of coverages today, and she’s a terrific player.”
Cahill and Buss lead the Hoosiers with 17 and 13 points, respectively. Cahill set an Indiana record for points in a Big Ten Tournament with 55. Buss extended her school career scoring record to 2,241. She has scored 640 points this season, two less than the record set by Karna Abram in 1985.
Indiana looked fatigued Friday night as the Hoosiers struggled to hit shots in the second half, shooting 26.7 percent in the fourth quarter. However, they did not blame the 60-minute second-round game.
“Yeah, we were a little fatigued maybe, especially towards the end, just because of the minutes that we logged last night, but like I said, we can’t use that as an excuse,” Buss said.
Indiana had one of the toughest schedules in women’s basketball and they hope that factor keeps its postseason dreams alive.
“I do think we have an argument, there’s no question,” Moren said. “We have two great seniors in Tyra and Amanda that have put up a lot of points. I think the biggest thing is you look at our strength of schedule, and it’s (ranked) eighth.”
With 11-2 run in the third quarter, the Terrapins began to outlast the Hoosiers. Freshman Channise Lewis grabbed a career high six rebounds and scored 10 points. Maryland thrived from the foul line down the stretch, shooting 9-for-12 in the fourth quarter, as Indiana tried to catch the Terrapins in the final minutes.
Maryland coach Brenda Frese felt there were areas she wanted to see her team work on to prepare for Nebraska.
“You know, our guard play has to improve if we want to go far,” she said. “Just being aggressive, being able to allow us to be able to knock down some shots, which makes it easier from inside out.”
Maryland’s bench outscored the Hoosiers, 14-4, as junior Brianna Fraser chipped in 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in her 23 minutes. Tying a career best in blocks, she now has 78, ranking her 15th all-time for Maryland.
Cahill also made her defensive presence known with two blocks, giving her 127 for her career. She moved into sixth place on Indiana’s all-time list for career blocks.
Maryland’s victory was just the second among its 10 conference tournament games that was decided by single digits. “You can say just how competitive this league is, and when you look at all the games that have been taking place, and obviously Indiana tonight coming in after four overtimes last night, just from top to bottom, it’s just an extremely competitive league,” Frese said.