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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 10:30 pm

Indiana 71, TCU 58

IU advances to WNIT final

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON — WNIT rules mandate the tournament's selection committee select the home site for each game, with "fan base" among the criteria the committee uses. 

Those selection committee members were clearly paying attention Wednesday.

More than 7,800 fans packed the lower bowl at Assembly Hall to watch the Hoosiers pull away in the second half and defeat Texas Christian 71-58 in the tournament semifinals. After the game, it was announced Saturday's championship game will be in Bloomington when the Hoosiers take on Virginia Tech (23-13).

Senior Tyra Buss played all 40 minutes and scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Hoosiers to the WNIT final for the first time since 1991. Dakota Vann had 13 points to lead TCU.

The crowd was the biggest to see the Hoosiers play since 2008, more than 1,800 fans larger than the previous high this season. It included university President Michael McRobbie and his wife, who congratulated Buss and fellow senior Amanda Cahill in the press room after the game.

"When we first ran out it kind of gave me chills a little bit," said Cahill, who scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds. "A few times during the game we could barely hear each other out on the court because it got so loud. ... Just around campus, people are talking about our team a lot and it's really cool to see how far the program's come even in our four years here."

The win was the 81st at Indiana for seniors Buss and Cahill, setting an Indiana record for a class. The victory wasn't in doubt at the end, as the Hoosiers (22-14) led by double-digits the entire fourth quarter. 

TCU (23-13) kept the game close in the first half with physical pressure defense. Indiana led 32-28 at halftime, but it turned the ball over eight times in the first half and 16 overall. The Hoosiers had seen a similar defense in December, when it committed 23 turnovers against Auburn, and that experience helped them steady themselves at halftime.

"We say every now and again, 'We can't get Auburned,'" coach Teri Moren said. "What an experience that was (against Auburn) for our young kids. They had never seen a press quite like that, just the aggression that Auburn presented and we didn't handle ourselves well. ... How we handled ourselves tonight (was) completely different."

Indiana opened the second half on a 12-3 run and cruised down the stretch, led by Buss's 13 second-half points. Buss, the all-time leading scorer in program history, turned the ball over five times and missed six free throws in the first half, but went 6 for 6 at the line in the second half.

"With five turnovers and her missed free throws, that's uncharacteristic of Tyra," Moren said. "But in the same sense, she still runs our team. She keeps us organized and she's always a threat."

Buss and Cahill will now get one more game at Assembly Hall with a chance to win Indiana's first WNIT title.

"It's kind of like Senior Night round two," Buss said of the coming title game. "We get to be on our home floor, in front of our home crowd one last time and we want to go out with a win, because not a lot of people get to say they end their college basketball careers on a win."

dsinn@jg.net