By Justin Sokeland
INDIANAPOLIS – Pride goeth before a fall. And it spurs a rise from the floor.
Staring at the threat of a humiliating sweep, Miss Basketball Jorie Allen and the Indiana All-Stars got off the deck to salvage the final game of the home-and-home series.
Down three in overtime, Allen rescued the Hoosiers with six consecutive points as Indiana rallied for a face-saving 76-71 victory Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Allen and new best friend (and future Indiana University teammate) Hannah Noveroske both scored 18 points as Indiana avenged Friday night’s loss on Kentucky soil.
Kentucky, which last swept the series rivalry in 2012, had erased a 10-point deficit to force overtime and had surged to a 71-68 lead with 2:44 left in the extra session (the first since 2010). That’s when Allen, as the wearer of the No.1 jersey is expected to do, took over.
Bedford North Lawrence’s superstar powered her way to a 3-point play, converted a fast break pass from future teammate Shaila Beeler for a go-ahead basket, and added a free throw with 1:04 left. Carissa Garcia clinched the win with a pair of free throws at 14.7.
Whew. Allen’s smile was part joy, part relief, and a 360-degree turn from the darkness on her face the previous night.
“We knew we were going to bounce back,” Allen said. “Of course, I would not be this happy if we lost.”
The difference in 24 hours? In addition to pride, Indiana’s defense took away a Kentucky strength. Kentucky hit 12 treys in Louisville but only 3 of 22 in the rematch. In fact, the Bluegrass shooters were a dismal 18 of 79 from the field.
“You could tell they put a lot more emphasis on getting out on shooters,” Kentucky coach Hagar Easterling said. “They really extended their defense.”
Indiana wasn’t much better (25 of 80) and added 16 misfires from the line. But the Hoosiers had a big weapon – a really big weapon in the 6-foot-5 Noveroske, who was unstoppable with position in the paint and ball in hand. She was 7 of 10, and she added two blocked shots that earned celebratory chest bumps with Allen.
“We weren’t really best of friends – until now,” Noveroske said. “I swear we’re besties now.” In fact, don’t be surprised if an underground band (featuring these two hoopers) called “Park Bench” makes the Bloomington scene. At least that’s their plan.
Indiana’s plan, when in danger, was taking advantage of Noveroske’s superior size in the paint.
‘Whenever two good teams play, whoever gets the most easy baskets usually wins,” Easterling said. “And she got some easy baskets because of her size, she’s just so big and so strong.”
Noveroske’s last bucket came off an Allen feed late in the fourth quarter, and Amaya Hamilton drained a rare but clutch trey for a 64-59 lead. But Indiana went scoreless the rest of regulation, and Kentucky’s Cameron Browning powered home a post bucket with 1:00 left to ultimately force overtime.
Hamilton swished another trey in OT to put Indiana in front 68-66, but the next three possessions shifted momentum to Kentucky. That’s when Allen stepped into the spotlight.
“I was in position to score,” Allen said. “I saw the advantage and I took it. I was being pretty aggressive. We needed a bucket. I wish more shots would have fell. That would have made life easier. But we got the win and that’s all that matters.”
Allen was 5 of 9 from the floor and a frosty 8 of 17 at the line for her points. Hamilton added 11 while Garcia totaled 11 rebounds.
Kentucky Miss Basketball Savannah Wheeler had 19 points and Browning totaled 13. Kentucky dominated the glass 69-57, and total that included a whopping 28 offensive boards.
“Credit Indiana,” Easterling said. “They made some plays, just a few more than we did tonight.”
Allen’s next stop is Indiana University, along her new friend and band member – if she can survive four years of chest bumps.
“I can take it,” Allen said with a smile. “I want the chest bumps. That’s what we play for, the fun. Not only do we play well together on the basketball court, we get along well off the court.”
In the boys game, Indiana completed a sweep with a second straight thrashing, slamming Kentucky 120-74. Mr. Basketball Trayce Jackson-Davis had 17 points while Jalen Windham added 16 for the Hoosiers.