The winningest season in Indiana women’s basketball program history ended with tearful smiles, hugs and a 69-57 loss to Villanova in the WNIT quarterfinals.
The 14 Hoosier players made their way to the 3-point arc at the south end of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall together one final time. The band played “Hail to Old IU” while underclassmen consoled the seniors whose careers just came to a sudden end.
Fans, eager to get one last conversation, picture or autograph with the players, flooded Branch McCracken Court. Five seniors—Jenn Anderson, Amber Deane, Alexis Gassion, Karlee McBride and Tyshee Towner—said their final goodbyes while underclassmen saw another season come and go prematurely.
Finality set in.
“One game can’t define our season,” head coach Teri Moren said. “Our goal was to play in the NCAA Tournament. That’s always our goal, but when we’re not selected then this became our new goal for us, and that was to win a championship. I feel badly for them that we couldn’t carry out that mission, but I’m really grateful for the opportunity that we got to coach those guys.”
Indiana’s three fourth-year seniors—Anderson, Gassion and McBride—graduated with 80 career wins to their credit. They reached the WNIT quarterfinals twice (2013-14 and 2016-17) and the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 in 2015-16.
Moren has gone out of her way to applaud them for remaining committed to the program even after Curt Miller left citing personal reasons the summer after their freshman years. She said they’ve ushered in a new era of IU women’s basketball that the underclassmen are left with to continue.
Their jobs are done now. What happens next is out of their hands.
“Coming off the last time you’re like, ‘Wow, my career at Indiana is over,’” Anderson said. “You just hope that you’ve left legacies for your teammates to follow. I’m going to miss this group. It’s the most fun group I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here.”
Villanova (20-14) buried Indiana (23-11) early with 10 makes from beyond the arc over their first 17 tries in the first half. The Wildcats made just two fewer 3-pointers than the Hoosiers owned made shots at halftime and owned a 41-30 lead.
It’s not unusual for Villanova to lean heavily on the longball. They shot an average of 27.2 treys per contest for the season and took 30, 30 and 31 3-point heaves in their three previous WNIT wins.
Moren made her players aware of the Wildcats’ tendency to pull up from well beyond the arc in practice. Still, too many shots were left uncontested.
“We knew they could shoot it, but our switches were not near as aggressive as we needed to be,” Moren said. “There were moments where I thought out defense was pretty sound and pretty solid but they still managed to get shots off and score at a really high rate.”
Moren said she correctly predicted at halftime that Villanova would cool off in the second half—the Wildcats made just 1-of-12 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes—but by then it was too late.
Indiana got within four points three times in the second half, including with 2:56 left, but could never get over the final hump to contend for the lead.
“We just didn’t score enough points,” Moren said.
Villanova's Jannah Tucker finished with 19 points to lead a trio of double-digit scorers for the Wildcats that also included Alex Louin (18) and Adrianna Hahn (13).
Junior point guard Tyra Buss led the way with 21 points for Indiana. Deane finished with 12 while junior forward Amanda Cahill added 10 to round out double-figure scoring.
But it was the mistakes that stood out the most. Moren said she and her staff couldn't help but recount missed layups from too many players, including the normally sound Cahill, Gassion and Anderson.
The mistakes added up.
"Scoring only 57 points is a problem," Moren said. "We're used to being in the 70s, and we just didn't put enough points on the board to win the game."
Deane, who averaged just 2 points per game for the season, heated up in the second half to help lead IU's late charge. She scored 10 of her 12 points in the second period alone, including six points in the fourth quarter.
"Everyone was telling me not to hesitate," said Deane, a fifth-year transfer from Dayton who missed eight games with a concussion. "I think that's honestly why some of the shots were able to go in was the faith of my teammates, the faith of my coaches. I just wish I could have done more, honestly."
Deane wasn't alone. Nobody wanted the season to end. No one ever does.
"To go out like that kind of stinks," Buss said. "We wanted to hang a banner. We wanted to win the WNIT."
It wasn't meant to be.
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