March 30, 2024 

‘We had it in our hands’: What Indiana’s near-upset of South Carolina proved about the Hoosiers

Indiana entered the Sweet 16 as 17.5-point underdogs but took the Gamecocks to the final seconds

ALBANY, N.Y. — Twenty-six teams had tried and failed to beat the undefeated, top-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks before Friday evening. The No. 4 seed Indiana Hoosiers were a mere five points away from pulling off the upset of the year, but they wound up being victim No. 27. 

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After trailing by 22 points early in the third quarter, most people counted the Hoosiers out. To call South Carolina dominant would be a massive understatement. They had outperformed Indiana in every aspect of the game.

But the Hoosiers, much like the “Believe” sign that hung proudly in their locker room, had faith in themselves.

They had been in this position before and failed to truly fight. Against Stanford in November and Iowa in January, the country saw Indiana falter in big-time moments away from their home crowd. 

But Indiana showed mental toughness on Friday, clawing its way back to within two points, using lessons from past missteps. The Hoosiers gave everything they had, but it was too late. 

“We felt like we had it in our hands,” sophomore guard Yarden Garzon said through tears after the 79-75 loss. “I’m just so proud.” 

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The Hoosiers didn’t win, but to them, this is just the beginning. Even All-American forward Mackenzie Holmes, who played her final collegiate game, noted that Indiana is just getting started as a program. 

“After I’m gone, I hope [the fans] continue to show up and we go even deeper in the tournament,” Holmes said. “I hope we get even more fans, even more sellouts. This is not the end. This is just the beginning for this program, and the trajectory of it is just going to continue to grow.” 

Holmes and guard Sara Scalia have played their final minutes as Hoosiers, but the resiliency that this team displayed on Friday proved that each loss the team faced wound up becoming a lesson. Indiana entered this matchup as 17.5-point underdogs and took the Gamecocks to the final seconds.

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“We got a little too comfortable in the second half,” South Carolina guard Te-Hina Paopao said. “They cut the lead down. We have a tendency to do that, and I hope we don’t feel like that again. They turned it up on defense, were making shots from the perimeter, and they did what they had to do to get back in the game. It was a close one.” 

The Gamecocks haven’t dealt with many close ones this season. Tennessee and LSU tested them in the regular season and the SEC Tournament, but Indiana was the first adversity they’d faced in the NCAA Tournament and the rare team to take them to the buzzer.

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The Hoosiers are used to being underestimated — it motivates them. But they hope that after Friday, they’ll be seen as even more of a national threat. 

“This loss tonight showed the nation what Indiana basketball is,” senior guard Sydney Parrish said. “It put us on the map and even though it was a loss, we fought back and we showed everyone that we can fight and we’re one of the top teams in the country.”

With 1:08 left in the game, Holmes’ layup made it a one-possession game. If the Hoosiers had more time, their momentum may have carried them to a victory. Instead, their season came to a close. 

The departures of Holmes and Scalia leave the Hoosiers without their two best players next season, but seniors Chloe Moore-McNeil and Parrish have elected to use their COVID-19 year to return. 

With two core leaders and a supporting cast that has been through ups and downs with the program, the Hoosiers will continue to be title contenders and prove any doubters wrong.

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Written by Talia Goodman

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