Lilly Meister sat on the sidelines proper earlier than introductions started Saturday morning in Simon Skjodt Meeting Corridor, as she’s carried out so many occasions earlier than this season. However this time, it was completely different.
As a substitute of standing and lining as much as cheer on Indiana’s 5 starters, Meister stayed seated. As a substitute of protecting her warmups on, Meister took her high layer off to place her jersey on full show.
She was getting the primary begin of her profession, and it was approaching the largest stage she’d ever been on.
“It’s a bit nerve-wracking, however that is the perfect environment ever,” Meister mentioned postgame. “However as soon as the tip went off, it was simply one other recreation.”
Meister began rather than Mackenzie Holmes, who didn’t seem in Indiana’s recreation towards No. 16-seed Tennessee Tech as a consequence of knee soreness. Teri Moren mentioned Holmes was obtainable if want be, however that was by no means the case; the Hoosiers coasted to a 77-47 victory with relative ease, even with out their All-American.
“As nice as Mackenzie is, and he or she’s an incredible participant, I feel we’re a very full staff,” Grace Berger mentioned. “We now have actually good guard play, now we have actually good backup publish gamers coming in off the bench.”
Meister and Alyssa Geary cut up minutes, every placing up new season-highs of 20 and 17 minutes, respectively. Meister had the most effective video games in her younger Hoosier profession, scoring seven factors, grabbing 4 rebounds and placing up three blocks — one other career-high.
Geary recorded three factors, three rebounds and put up season-highs in assists and steals with two and one, respectively. She additionally contributed one block to Indiana’s whole of 11.
Protection was the secret for the Hoosiers, because it has been for the entire season. They began out shaky within the first quarter, permitting Tennessee Tech to hit open 3-pointers and keep firmly in rivalry for the lead.
However all due to a one-timeout, Indiana rapidly righted the ship and sailed to victory after the primary quarter.
“There was a media timeout the place Grace Berger and Chloe (Moore-McNeil) actually challenged their teammates to do a significantly better job in defending the 3-point line,” Moren mentioned.
Moore-McNeil was apparently “madder than a hornet” within the huddle, pushing her teammates to do a greater job on protection. They did.
After permitting 18 factors within the first quarter, Indiana held Tennessee Tech to 12 factors or much less within the subsequent three quarters. The Golden Eagles, who common 69 factors per recreation, solely scored 47 factors on 28 % taking pictures.
Indiana additionally dominated within the paint, even with out Holmes, scoring 44 factors to Tennessee Tech’s 16. The Hoosiers by no means let up.
“It doesn’t matter what the rating appears like, we’re nonetheless going to wish to play good basketball,” Moren mentioned. ‘We’re going to wish to maintain the ball, and we’re going to wish to get the shot that we wish to get. That’s the self-discipline of our program.”
With out Holmes, Indiana was with out one in every of its most disciplined gamers, and first leaders, on the ground. However with gamers like Moore-McNeil and Berger on the market for a lot of the recreation, the Hoosiers weren’t with out route.
Berger, the epitome of self-discipline, was the driving pressure behind Indiana’s victory, with 17 factors, six rebounds, 4 assists, three blocks and one steal. As level guard, she handed the ball with blazing velocity and located open lanes for herself and her teammates.
“Grace Berger got here out with only a completely different stage of urgency immediately, and we would have liked her to do this,” Moren mentioned. “We want her to do this the rest of the event. She’s our chief, and as Grace goes, we go.”
So when Berger charged down the courtroom on a fastbreak, her teammates adopted her. When she lobbed a cross midway down the ground, somebody was there to catch it. When she bounced a no-look cross within the paint, it discovered its manner into the basket.
Berger dictated Indiana’s tempo for a majority of the sport, and more often than not that tempo was quick. 29 of Indiana’s factors got here on the fastbreak, with 20 coming within the second quarter alone.
“It’s clearly who we’re, who we wish to be,” Moren mentioned. “Pushing the tempo and operating.”
The Hoosiers confirmed simply who they had been Saturday; a well-rounded, gifted staff able to profitable — and taking part in like one of many high groups within the nation — with out their finest participant.
As a result of Indiana has a staff filled with gamers who convey their finest each recreation, play with the appropriate mindset and know what they should do to win. And that’s what you want in March.
“It’s the NCAA Match, so it’s win or go residence,” Berger mentioned. “So there’s actually no purpose for any of us to not have a way of urgency in each recreation transferring ahead. We’re on the largest stage, that’s the place we belong and that’s the place we wish to be.”
(Picture credit score: IU Athletics)