INDIANAPOLIS - March Madness opened with a bang for Indiana's women's basketball team.
The Hoosiers survived a four-overtime thriller, defeating Michigan State 111-109 Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the Big Ten Tournament second round, clinging to their NCAA tournament hopes.
Indiana entered the game 16-13, and in a must-win situation to have a chance at the Big Dance, but survived and advanced, winning their ninth game in their last 10 outings.
"It just means a lot to be a part of something special," Tyra Buss said. "You know women's sports is on the come up, and we appreciate that a lot. It means a lot to be a part of that and a part of making history, and most importantly just coming out with this win, because it would be heartbreaking if we went through four overtimes and we lost."
The four overtime game is the longest in the 25-year history of the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament history.
On a night when the Mount Carmel native struggled from the field - Buss, in the end, hit the only shot that mattered.
With Indiana trailing 107-106, Buss stepped back and buried a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to put the Hoosiers up 109-107, before Amanda Cahill knocked down a pair of free throws with three ticks left to secure the win.
"I just stepped up and made that shot," Buss said. "And it went in, and it got us some energy."
Buss only managed an 8-of-26 clip from the field, scoring 24 points, and adding eight assists and five rebounds.
After Indiana jumped out to a 26-17 lead after one quarter, the Spartans (17-13) chipped their way back into the game. Michigan State took its' first lead at 66-65 with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter and eventually forced overtime on Shay Colley's jumper with 25 seconds left to force a 74-74 draw at the end of regulation. Colley scored a team-high 27 points, but fouled out during the fourth overtime, and was a non-factor down the stretch.
While Buss struggled with her shot, she helped propel her senior teammate Amanda Cahill to a career-night. Cahill scored a game-high 38 points and hauled in nine rebounds while dishing out six assists. Bendu Yeaney also reached double-figures with 19, while Jaelynn Penn added 16, and Kym Royster 14 for the Hoosiers.
"That's something that comes with experience," Tyra Buss. "You know I'm a senior. I'm the point guard and leader of this team, and so when my shot's not falling, I can't get down on myself, because I can't let my teammates see me like that, and I just have to find a way to help the team in other ways."
The Hoosiers fell behind early in each of the first three overtimes and needed last-second baskets from Cahill and Royster in the second and third overtimes to even the score.
Over Cahill and Buss' four-year career at IU, the Hoosiers have struggled in the Big Ten tourney, making Thursday just their second victory.
"Super happy for Tyra and [Cahill], because this place has not been good to us the last couple of years," Indiana coach Teri Moren said.
Throughout the entire duration of the 60-minute contest, Buss, and Cahill never left the floor, and the Hoosiers only played seven players. Indiana will return to the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night to face No. 2 seed Maryland, a team they lost to 74-70 in the regular season.
Many would count Indiana out, but not this team, not this dynamic senior duo. Especially Buss, as the two-time Ms. Illinois Basketball leads the country in minutes played with more than 40 a game, so fatigue likely won't be an issue.
"I think most of it came down to mental," Cahill said after the game. "You just have to tell yourself you're not tired and keep battling through, and I think that's when we did a really good job of leaning on each other."
If nothing else, momentum will be on the Hoosier's side as they head into tonight's game against the Terrapins at 5:30 p.m.
"This is really important for us, to have that momentum," Buss said. "And now we are settled in, and we know what it takes, and we are ready for tomorrow."