Indiana gives Notre Dame plenty to think about

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Maybe it was just the kind of basketball game Notre Dame needed.

Maybe it was a sign there are Irish weaknesses other teams along the NCAA women’s basketball tournament trail will try to exploit.

Whatever the case, Indiana didn’t go quietly into the night Monday, finally falling, 87-70.

The Hoosiers had the audacity to believe they could compete with — and even beat — Notre Dame on its home floor.

IU was the 37th best in the 64-team field. Notre Dame is No. 3. Yet, it was a battle for three-plus quarters before the Hoosiers ran out of McDonald’s All-Americans. Check that, they didn’t have any players in that stratosphere, while the Irish, with a handful, had that market cornered.

“We have Burger King All-Americans,” said Indiana coach Teri Moren, able to smile after the game.

The same didn’t go for her players. The IU locker room was crowded with crying players; players who truly believed they were destined to survive and advance.

“Our message to them was: Why not us?” said Moren. “Why can’t we be one of those stories?”

If it weren’t for Irish point guard Lindsay Allen (22 points, 7 assists), it might have been the Hoosiers. Allen gave Indiana sophomore Tyra Buss a clinic in what it takes to play the position. While Brianna Turner (18 points, 10 rebounds) misfired nine times from about five feet, and the Irish were just 4 of 10 (compared to IU’s 7 of 16) from 3-point range, there was an inkling that this wasn’t going to be a vintage Notre Dame performance.

But the Irish not being on top of their game is one thing. And, having a team playing well enough to pull the upset is another.

Indiana trailed by 10 at halftime. Seven minutes later, a layup by Lyndsay Leikem cut Notre Dame’s lead to two.

That’s where the Hoosiers’ tank hit empty. The Irish got the lead back to 10 at the break. A 3-pointer by Madison Cable with 6:37 left in the game pushed the lead to 20 and allowed Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw to smile for the first time all night.

“We focused on (Notre Dame’s) transition,” said Buss. “They like to get out and go. They have a tremendous point guard. She had a lot of open jumpers. We didn’t get under the ball screen as well.

“Turner is just a beast inside. We had to make her work down low.”

Oh, she worked. Indiana’s Jenn Anderson, Amanda Cahill and Kym Royster took turns pounding on the Irish sophomore post.

“Pre-game, we talked about everyone who was doubting us; the outsiders,” said Royster, a 6-foot-2 freshman who had 10 point and 10 boards. “We used that as motivation to play hard and play every play as our last play.”

“The main thing was to make every shot (Turner) took tough,” said the 6-3 Anderson, who fouled out (on a technical foul) with four points and five rebounds. “We had nothing to lose. We had to stick together for 40 minutes, and that’s what we did.”

Well, 30-and-change.

Sportsmanship in the stands nearly got sidetracked as the game wore on. Late in the third quarter, Madison Cable had a steal and went the distance for a layup. IU’s Karlee McBride, whose sister Kayla (nicknamed KayMac) was an All-American at Notre Dame, hit the ball and Cable with a hard foul. Most of the 5,750 fans wanted an intention foul, but it wasn’t called.

After that, every time McBride got the ball, she was loudly booed. Early in the fourth quarter, McBride’s father, who was seated in the IU fan section just behind the media tables, started yelling, “Stop booing my daughter! If KayMac was here, you wouldn’t be booing!”

Security was called to calm the situation before it escalated.

It was that sort of a night.

Indiana’s Kym Royster (11) gets tangled with Notre Dame’s Hannah Huffman (24) during the Hoosiers NCAA matchup against Notre Dame, Monday, March 21, 2016 in South Bend. Tribune Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ