The Indiana Tech women's basketball team did not lose a single game in 2020, putting together a 30-game winning streak in the calendar year that bridged two seasons and even as COVID-19 canceled the late rounds of the NAIA championship.
But that streak was snapped in the Warriors' first game of 2021, as a furious second-half rally fell just short and No. 11 Indiana Tech lost to Indiana Wesleyan 61-59 Saturday at the Schaefer Center.
“I think whenever you have a long break and you give them some time off from practice, you're a little bit rusty, and I think it took us awhile to get going,” Warriors coach Jessie Biggs said. “(Indiana Wesleyan) is a really good basketball team, there's no shame in that. They're good. They compete at a high level. I wish we would've decided to get some fight in us at some point in the first half, but I thought in the second half we progressed and picked it up a little bit.”
The Warriors (8-1) trailed 35-22 at halftime, but the offense started to rev up in the second half, moving the ball around more effectively to give Warriors better shots. Indiana Tech shot 53.3% in the third quarter (compared with 20% in the first), and the Wildcats (9-3) watched their lead shrink to six points heading into the fourth quarter.
For the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter, Indiana Wesleyan fought off any further Indiana Tech advances, but with 1:07 to play Emma Tuominen grabbed a rebound and ran back down the court for a layup that cut the Wildcats' lead to 59-54.
Then came the big break the Warriors needed: Alexis Hill stole Dayton Groninger's inbound pass right in front of the Indiana Tech basket, and immediately hit the layup. Groninger tried to defend the shot but was called for a foul, and Hill hit the free throw to cut the Wildcats' lead to 59-57.
Indiana Wesleyan scored on its next possession, but Hill scored on another layup to once again cut the margin to two. After a timeout, Indiana Wesleyan's Anne Secrest was called for a backcourt violation when she was trapped in front of the scorer's table by Erika Foy and Hill.
The Warriors had 17.9 seconds to hit the tying or go-ahead shot. Tuominen took the first shot, a jumper that bounced off the rim, and in the scramble for the rebound the ball squirted out of bounds. Indiana Tech kept possession and had 2.9 seconds to score, and this time Kyra Whitaker took a slightly off-balance shot from behind the 3-point line that bounced off the back of the rim.
“We had it drawn up, we had our best shooter, it was a great look, it just wasn't executed,” Foy said. “(The Indiana Wesleyan turnovers) put us in a great position, and we got great looks, we just didn't execute them towards the end of the game.”
Foy led the Warriors with 15 points and nine rebounds (Indiana Tech outrebounded the Wildcats 39-32). Tuominen scored 12 points, and Eileen Salisbury had 10.
“I thought we did a really good job of executing at the end of the game. We got a great trap. We caught them exactly where we wanted to,” Biggs said. “And we had a shot to win it. That's what we were looking for. The details and the execution in that was great. I wish we would've had a little more details on defensive characteristics in the first half to go along with it.”