This past weekend, the Lady Jaguar basketball team closed the gap in conference standings on Youngstown State, then pulled away from Cleveland State in cruise control fashion, further solidifying a spot in the top four of the Horizon League Conference standings for Motor City Madness.
IUPUI played host to the Youngstown State Penguins in The Jungle on Feb. 8. The Penguins entered the contest as the conference’s top scoring team, averaging 70.1 points per game.
Before tipoff, the Lady Jags broke their sideline huddle with a call for “DEFENSE!” Youngstown State stifled the Jags down low early, running a 2-3 zone defense to defend against Macee Williams. IUPUI countered by deploying a man-press defense which proved too much for the Penguin’s Sarah Cash, the Horizon league’s eighth leading scorer, who committed three turnovers before being pulled from the game. Just under the five minute mark, the Lady Jags led the defensive battle 9-2, forcing the Penguins out of their zone defense. The pace of the game picked up from there with the score at the conclusion of the first quarter 13 to 8 in favor of the Jaguars.
Macee Williams went to work in the early in the second quarter, banging in two early layups off power moves along with an and-one. Williams recorded 14 of her 19 points on the night in the second quarter. Within the first two minutes of the second quarter, Youngstown State finally found their stroke behind the arc, knocking down two 3-pointers to take a 1-point, short lived lead. IUPUI regained the lead 17 seconds later. The Jaguars utilized a scoring outburst to increase that lead to ten before the half.
“I thought for the first half we defended really well,” IUPUI Head Coach Austin Parkinson said, “but we had two minutes; the first two plays of the second quarter, and the last two plays of the second quarter, where we failed to recall our scouting, and they had four threes. Outside of that, we were really solid. I thought it was one of the best defensive performances we had in a long time. We were really good on the offensive glass and boxing out.”
IUPUI began the second half with an aggressive defense the same as the first. Holly Hoopingarner did not flinch in the face of an aggressive Youngstown State defense, knocking down two consecutive 3-pointers to lift the Jags to a 44-34 lead with 4 minutes, 35 seconds left in the third quarter. She continued to slice through the defense all night, delivering a last second finger roll down the middle of the lane to push the Jags to a 60-40 lead with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars rolled to a 64-44 victory.
“I thought we executed our game plan to a T,” Hoopingarner said. “We could not have done a better job of doing what we practiced all week. I am very proud of the way we executed. We changed some things up as far as the way we defended. Just knowing that we will be able to use some of those things later in the year was a good step in the right direction for us.”
The Lady Jags followed this impressive match up with another home game on Sunday against Cleveland State.
The first quarter started slow with the Lady Jags maintaining a 5-4 lead through the halfway mark of the first quarter before turning up the pressure on defense. Six turnovers and five missed shots consecutively proved devastating for Cleveland State, who trailed IUPUI 18-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was marked by IUPUI shuffling the ball around on offense, in what seemed more like a game of keep away, as Sydney Roule delivered three 3-pointers on seven attempts. The Jaguars finished the second half leading 35-17 with key performances coming from Macee Williams, totaling eight rebounds, and Morgan Allen and Tamiya Sims both making 4 of their 6 field goals attempted.
“I think our Chemistry has improved a lot,” Sims said. “We want to be focused on our end goal and do something special. I think where we lose our focus is looking to future games. We just have to take it one game at a time and execute the game plan, then we can beat anybody.”
IUPUI could coast a bit in the second half en route to a 64-36 victory.
“We’ve let some games slip that we shouldn’t have,” Parkinson said, “There is not a room for error for what we want to accomplish. We have to go game by game and not overlook anybody.”
The Jaguars go on the road for their next three contests, but return to the hunt for a championship in The Jungle on Feb. 28 versus Green Bay, and the closing regular season game against Milwaukee on Mar. 2.