LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — For the Indiana women’s basketball team, the most successful season in program history ended Monday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, with a 66-53 loss to Arizona in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament.
Three-point shooting and a dazzling performance by Arizona All-American Aari McDonald were the major differences.
With a series of quick, elusive left-handed moves, McDonald dominated the game with 33 points and 11 rebounds.
"She's terrific," IU coach Teri Moren said. "She's as fast as any player we've faced all year. There's a reason she's a 2,000-point scorer in her career because she's a very difficult matchup. She's every bit as good as we thought she was."
Arizona also made 9 of its 21 3-point shots, while the Hoosiers (21-6) missed all nine of their shots from distance. Three-point shooting was an issue for IU in the tournament. They made only 3 of 29 shots from distance in four NCAA Tournament games.
Three Indiana players scored all but 6 of the Hoosiers' 53 points. Sacred Heart High School product Grace Berger had 15, guard Ali Patberg 12 and Mackenzie Holmes led IU with 20. With limited reserves, Moren used only 5 players for most of the second half as the fatigues Hoosiers were outscored 11-3 down the stretch.
"We didn't have the extra burst to get to balls, the toughness to get to rebounds," Moren said.
The Elite Eight game was the first in program history for the Hoosiers, who finished second in the Big Ten and defeated top-seed North Carolina State in the Sweet 16. At least 4 starters should return next season and Patberg could make it 5.
The Hoosiers played from behind for most of the first half. They led for only 63 seconds and never by more than 3 points.
Shooting was the issue. Although they only turned the ball over nine times against Arizona’s full-court defense, IU missed 20 of its 55 field-goal attempts.
McDonald was also the issue. She scored 17 of Arizona’s 27 first-half points, primarily on drives, primarily to the left side of the court.
"She's an elite player," Holmes said. "She stepped up big time. She can score at all 3 levels."
Indiana was able to tie the game in the second half but the Hoosiers never moved ahead.
Arizona will play Connecticut on Friday night in the national semifinals at the Alamodome. Louisville will play top-seeded Stanford on Tuesday night for a spot in the Final Four.
"We were kind of at a loss for words," Holmes said. "We were pretty upset (after the game). We wanted to be here longer.
"We want this to be a regular thing. We don't want it to be a surprise for Indiana to be in the Elite 8."
"We'll reflect on this with a lot of memories, but it also fuels you," Moren said. "We will be back. We will be back."
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