Bloomington, Ind. Indiana erased a 14-point second-half deficit in Mondays game against Western Illinois at Assembly Hall to claim a thrilling 81-74 overtime win.
The Hoosiers improved to 6-4 on the year, while Western Illinois fell to 6-4. Indiana is 5-0 all-time in overtime games under head coach Kathi Bennett, and the win came in Bennett's 100th game as Indiana's head coach and was the 280th victory of her career at all schools. Her team snapped the Westerwinds four-game winning streak and improved to 10-1 all-time against Mid-Continent Conference foes.
The Hoosiers trailed by three with under 30 seconds remaining, when Cyndi Valentin drained a clutch three-pointer to send the game into overtime. Valentin finished with 20 points, which included an 9-of-10 effort from the charity stripe.
Western Illinois success should come as no surprise, as the Westerwinds entered the contest riding the crest of a four-game winning streak. WIU was picked as the preseason favorite to repeat as Mid-Continent Conference champions and featured the Preseason Conference Player of the Year in forward Tiffany Cornelius. Earlier in the year, Western Illinois went into Madison and knocked off Wisconsin, 64-58.
The Westerwinds starting lineup featured two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, while the Hoosiers have no seniors and only two juniors on the entire roster.
The Hoosiers trailed, 54-38, in the second half but mounted a comeback, as Jenny DeMuth scored 17 unanswered points and 20 straight points for IU, to single-handedly give IU a 57-54 lead with under six minutes remaining. DeMuths offensive brilliance combined with a furious full-court pressure defense brought Indiana back from what seemed at the time to be an insurmountable deficit. DeMuth finished with 27 points, including 24 in the second half, and 11 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the year and her sixth 20-plus point game of the season. DeMuth has scored 20 or more points in each of her last four games. Her stat line also included five steals, three assists and three blocks.
Mondays game marked the third time this year that Indiana has erased a significant deficit, as the Hoosiers trailed Mississippi State by 21 points in the second half at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands before cutting the deficit to one with under a minute remaining. The Hoosiers erased a 14-point deficit at Georgetown to claim a 72-62 win the next week.
Indiana struggled inside with WIU center Zane Teilane. The 6-7 Teilane had her way in the paint for the entire first half and finished the game with 19 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks. Cornelius contributed 20 points and guard Jessica Cook added 18 to lead the way for Western.
Western Illinois came out strong, controlling the first half and going into the locker room with a 36-29 lead. The Westerwinds led for the majority of the first half, largely due to the fact that it was able to hold DeMuth in check. DeMuth converted on only one of her eight first-half field goal attempts and went into halftime with only three points. In addition, Western consistently pounded the ball inside and got good looks from Teilane, who not only scored 14 points, but grabbed 12 rebounds (five offensive) and blocked four shots in the first half alone.
WIU converted on 14 of its 26 attempts from the field in the first half (54 percent), limiting the Hoosiers to a 9-of-26 first-half showing (35 percent). Indianas 29 first half points marked the lowest first-half total in a home game since February 23 of last year, when Michigan held IU to 26 first-half points.
Freshman center Sarah McKay made her first collegiate start in the contest, making her the third different freshman to start a game for Indiana this year. McKay chipped in with nine points and corralled 10 rebounds. Junior point guard LeeAnn Stephenson scored eight points in the victory on 4-of-7 shooting.
Fellow freshman Leah Enterline returned to the lineup for the Hoosiers after missing last game with an ankle injury. Enterline finished with six points, a block and a steal in 11 minutes of action.
After a small break for Christmas, the Hoosiers return to action at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 31, when they travel to Muncie to face Ball State in a rematch of last years thrilling double-overtime 103-95 Indiana win. The game will be broadcast live on 105.1 WHCC Radio Bloomington with Jeremy Gray calling all the action. The broadcast can also be accessed worldwide via the internet by visiting www.iuhoosiers.com. Simply click the broadcasts link, then select womens basketball.