The weather outside was frightful, and so was the play inside Savage Arena early on.
The Rockets (6-4) committed 14 turnovers in the first half and trailed 31-18 at the break. They were behind by as many 14 points with 17:08 left in the contest before waking up and mounting an impassioned rally for their first win over a Big Ten team since defeating Michigan 61-55 on Nov. 26, 2005.
"We just like to keep things interesting and keep our fans hanging," deadpanned junior guard Courtney Ingersoll, who helped lead the charge with eight second-half points. "No, that's just something we have to get better at and learn as a team. It's part of our growing pains and rebuilding, learning how to come out and start faster and keep it up."
Junior point guard Naama Shafir was one of three UT players to finish with 13 points, and she also went home with a bloody lip after catching an elbow from Indiana forward Danilsa Andujar with 4:18 to play. A lengthy official review ensued, and Andujar was eventually assessed a technical foul after a delay of more than five minutes.
"I'm good," Shafir said after the game. "It's part of the game."
Although Shafir brushed off the injury, Ingersoll said it gave the Rockets even more motivation to close out the comeback.
"It really fired us up," Ingersoll said. "We want to protect our teammates, and we wanted to fight for Naama."
Just 1:03 after that, the Rockets took their first lead of the game on senior forward Melissa Goodall's free throw and never fell behind again.
Goodall joined Shafir and senior guard Jessica Williams with a team-high 13 points.
"I'm just really proud of our players," UT coach Tricia Cullop said. "We didn't keep our heads down. Things weren't going our way in the first half, and I really challenged them at halftime to come out and play the way we had against upper echelon teams we had faced before."
UT also forced Indiana (5-5) into committing 29 turnovers, including 11 turnovers from team-leading scorer Jori Davis.
Davis was also held to nine points, 10 below her season average. Aulani Sinclair led the Hoosiers with five 3-pointers and 17 points.
"We keep talking about defense, and to force a Big Ten team into 29 turnovers, I thought, was the key for the game," Cullop said. "I think our defense is really coming around. We're not having spurts where we don't play it. Our kids consistently played great defense tonight."
Ingersoll led the way in that department with seven steals, and redshirt freshman guard Andola Dortch added four as the Rockets tallied 17 steals.
"The fight of a team is determined in how you respond," Ingersoll said. "We needed to show our coach and our fans that we're not just going to quit and that we're fighters."
UT showed plenty of fight over the weekend, picking up a 64-36 home win over Oakland on Friday after a disappointing 102-69 loss at Dayton last Sunday, and has now won five of its last six contests following a three-game losing streak.
"We took our lumps early, but hopefully this gives us a shot of confidence and experience in tough situations and finishing it out," Cullop said. "Plus, there's nothing like being at home. If we could click our heels and be here more often, it might be a lot more fun."
Contact Zach Silka at: email@example.com or 419-724-6084.
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