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Hoosiers fall just short of historic upset

Mar. 29—ALBANY, N.Y. — There are no moral victories in March Madness, but Indiana's women's basketball team came tantalizingly close to making history Friday at MVP Arena.

Despite trailing by 22 points in the third quarter, the fourth-seeded Hoosiers took top-ranked and unbeaten South Carolina to the wire in a 79-75 decision in an Albany 1 Regional semifinal.

"Well, we're very disappointed," IU coach Teri Moren said. "I felt like if we had a few more minutes, maybe the outcome would be a little bit different for us tonight. But I can't overstate enough how proud I am and our staff is of our group and the way they fought."

Indiana (26-6) was 13-of-33 beyond the 3-point arc to stay in the game with the deep, talented and physical Gamecocks (35-0).

Former Indiana Miss Basketball Sydney Parrish led the charge with 21 points and shot 5-for-10 from 3-point range. Yarden Garzon added 16 points and was 3-for-9 from long range, and Chloe Moore-McNeil and Sara Scalia finished with 12 points each.

Moore-McNeil was 3-for-4 from the perimeter, and Scalia was 2-for-6.

"Just want to say that Indiana is a really tough basketball team that wanted to move on, and they gave an incredible effort in the third and fourth quarter to get themselves back in the game and put us back on our heels," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "I wish the seniors well, and I know that Teri will get her team back in this position again in the future."

The 3-point barrage helped the Hoosiers nearly overcome a game-high 22 points and seven rebounds from South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso. But it was among the last of guard Raven Johnson's 14 points that ultimately sealed Indiana's fate.

After Hoosiers star Mackenzie Holmes — who finished with 12 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots — scored in the paint to cut the deficit to 74-72 with 1:08 remaining, the Gamecocks called time out.

Coming out of the break, Johnson played an inside-out game with Cardoso and drained a 3-pointer that proved to be the biggest shot of the day.

"I was open, and all I could think was, 'Let it go,'" Johnson said. "I don't want to lose, just going from last year. Nobody can sag off me this year, and I take that very personal.

"And I get in the gym every day and put up reps, and I think that's where it comes from, the confidence."

When Johnson drained a three with 7:28 left in the third quarter, it did not appear the second half would hold any drama.

South Carolina led 56-34, and Indiana looked every bit the overmatched opponent it was made out to be before the game.

Shortly thereafter, the Hoosiers got hot from the perimeter.

"We're a tough team, and we knew we were going to have to fight until the end," Parrish said. "We could have given up after halftime, and it could have been a really ugly game, but we're fighters, and I think we showed that tonight.

"I'm glad we did because I think it puts us on the map, and I think people will realize what Indiana basketball is, and we're not going to give up."

Parrish got things started with a triple to cut the deficit to 61-43 with 6:15 left in the period. She followed with a another three and a lay-up for a personal 8-0 run before Garzon scored in the paint to make it 61-50 with 3:52 left.

The Gamecocks appeared to stabilize with four straight points before Moore-McNeil scored five in a row to cut the deficit to 10 at the quarter's end.

It could have been even closer, but Holmes missed a pair of free throws with two seconds remaining.

Still, the Hoosiers carried the momentum into the final period when Holmes scored in the paint and Parrish connected on a 3-pointer. That made the deficit 65-60 with 7:22 to go, and it was close the rest of the way.

"Like coach said, we battled our butts off tonight the entire third and fourth quarter whether shots were falling or not," Holmes said. "We kept getting back on defense, kept getting stops, kept making plays on the other end.

"I'm just super, super proud that we didn't — our backs were against the wall, and we did not go down without a fight, and that's all we can really ask for."

Indiana became the first team in the NCAA Tournament to stay within single digits of South Carolina, and it was just the seventh time it's happened all season.

Tennessee lost 74-73 in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals, and that was the only time an opponent came closer to winning than the Hoosiers did Friday.

"We're disappointed because we've been here before, but we wanted to get to that next — advance and move on because we think we really do have — I believe this — a very special basketball team," Moren said. "I'll end with how proud we are of all of them.

"Mackenzie Holmes has been one of our greatest players ever to put on an Indiana uniform and will go down in history as one of the greatest. So I'm sad for her because I know she's sad that it's over. But her sidekick over there, Syd Parrish, will be back another year, and hopefully she will help lead this team and help making that next step, should we, God willing, next year be in a similar scenario."