Lilly Meister sat on the sidelines right before introductions began Saturday morning in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, as she’s done so many times before this season. But this time, it was different.
Instead of standing and lining up to cheer on Indiana’s five starters, Meister stayed seated. Instead of keeping her warmups on, Meister took her top layer off to put her jersey on full display.
She was getting the first start of her career, and it was coming on the biggest stage she’d ever been on.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but this is the best atmosphere ever,” Meister said postgame. “But once the tip went off, it was just another game.”
Meister started in place of Mackenzie Holmes, who did not appear in Indiana’s game against No. 16-seed Tennessee Tech due to knee soreness. Teri Moren said Holmes was available if need be, but that was never the case; the Hoosiers coasted to a 77-47 victory with relative ease, even without their All-American.
“As great as Mackenzie is, and she’s an amazing player, I think we are a really complete team,” Grace Berger said. “We have really good guard play, we have really good backup post players coming in off the bench.”
Meister and Alyssa Geary split minutes, each putting up new season-highs of 20 and 17 minutes, respectively. Meister had one of the best games in her young Hoosier career, scoring seven points, grabbing four rebounds and putting up three blocks — another career-high.
Geary recorded three points, three rebounds and put up season-highs in assists and steals with two and one, respectively. She also contributed one block to Indiana’s total of 11.
Defense was the name of the game for the Hoosiers, as it has been for the whole season. They started out shaky in the first quarter, allowing Tennessee Tech to hit open 3-pointers and stay firmly in contention for the lead.
But all thanks to a one-timeout, Indiana quickly righted the ship and sailed to victory after the first quarter.
“There was a media timeout where Grace Berger and Chloe (Moore-McNeil) really challenged their teammates to do a much better job in protecting the 3-point line,” Moren said.
Moore-McNeil was apparently “madder than a hornet” in the huddle, pushing her teammates to do a better job on defense. They did.
After allowing 18 points in the first quarter, Indiana held Tennessee Tech to 12 points or less in the next three quarters. The Golden Eagles, who average 69 points per game, only scored…
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