INDIANAPOLIS – The IUPUI women’s basketball team put a capper on an already impressive 2021-22 campaign on Tuesday (Mar. 8) as the Jaguars knocked off Cleveland State in the KEEPS Horizon League Basketball Championship game inside Indiana Farmers Coliseum, 61-54. Four-time #HLWBB Player of the Year Macee Williams earned Tournament MVP honors and finished with 19 points and 18 boards in the victory.
“I’m thrilled for our players. It’s been a long journey to get here,” said head coach Austin Parkinson. “I think having the experience of being in the championship the past two years really paid off. Our veterans especially Destiny made some really clutch plays down the stretch and now they’ll get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.”
However, when things got tight late, it was Destiny Perkins that authored the signature moments, including completing a four-point play from the right wing with 1:35 left to push IUPUI’s lead back to six. After IUPUI led by as many as 18 earlier in the day, Cleveland State (19-8) used a full-court press and stingy zone defense to crawl within two with 3:29 to play, but never fully overtook the Jags.
“Today was a lot of ups and downs and you’ve got to give Cleveland State a lot of credit,” said coach Parkinson. “Cleveland State fought back and made it really difficult when they started pressing.”
Rachel McLimore, who joined Williams on the All-Tournament Team, helped ease some angst when she rebounded a Perkins miss and was later fouled, leading to two made free throws with 2:21 left. CSU’s Destiny Leo countered with a made layup before Perkins came up with the game’s biggest basket with 1:35 left, thanks to Williams’ lone assist of the day. Perkins helped ice the victory from there, ultimately scoring 11 of her 15 points in the game’s final quarter.
Williams continued her clockwork like efficiency, going 8-of-12 from the floor on a day in which the Jaguars shot just 39.6 percent overall and 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) from three-point range. McLimore finished with 11 points and Madison Wise added nine points and five boards.
Leo and Gabrielle Smith finished with 14 points apiece in the loss.
Williams did the heavy lifting early, helping IUPUI surge out to a 21-7 lead after the first quarter, single-handedly outscoring Cleveland State by a 9-7 margin in the opening 10 minutes. Williams then scored the first four points of the second quarter to extend IUPUI’s advantage to 25-7 at the 9:01 mark. The Vikings responded with a 10-0 run to get back within eight before the Jags pushed the lead back to 30-19 by halftime.
IUPUI rebuilt its 18-point lead midway through the third quarter, but was then stymied by Cleveland State’s defense. The Vikings outscored IUPUI 15-3 to close the third quarter, making it a two-possession game heading into the fourth. Cleveland State cut the lead back to three after Isabella Geraci hit a three of the opening possession of the fourth, but the Vikings were never able to pull even from there.
Cleveland State shot 40.8 percent from the floor and 7-of-18 (38.9 percent) and outscored the Jaguars 15-5 on fast break points. With the win, IUPUI claimed it’s second tournament title in three years, but will make the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“This year was a little sweeter because in 2020 we didn’t actually get to go into the NCAA (Tournament) and last year Wright State won,” Williams said following Tuesday’s win. “Just this game was a little sweeter.”
IUPUI will now await its NCAA Tournament fate as the brackets will officially be released on Selection Sunday.