But there was one game that got a lot of attention and it wasn’t by Johnson or any other player.
When the ball was jammed between the backboard and the shot clock at the beginning of the second half, the players tried in vain to free it.
At first it seemed like St. Mary’s Matthias Tass was trying to reach the ball from a folding chair.
But the plan turned into a referee standing on the chair to try to free him, to no avail.
Enter Indiana’s Resourceful Cheer Squad!
A female cheerleader was lofted by a male counterpart.
Indeed, the dynamic duo of Nathan Paris and Cassidy Cerny got the ball clear.
“What a game! The cheerleader saves the day!” said the commentator.
Indiana University Cheerleading cheered on the couple on Instagram.
“Their ‘One Shining Moment’ tonight does what they do every day. Nathan Paris and Cassidy Cerny!!” said IU Cheerleading.
Cerny and Paris were questioned about their saving move throughout the second half.
“It actually happened. I didn’t think it would happen,” Cerny said.
“They had the chair out there, but they couldn’t put the player in the chair, and I was like, ‘Well, we lift (cheerleaders) up all the time, so why don’t we just try it?'” Paris said.
Cerny said she was very comfortable being propped up on another cheerleader’s hands. She said she entrusted her life to Paris.
Both cheerleaders shared tweets and Instagram posts from others congratulating them and stealing the show.
“All in one working day!” Paris tweeted.
“Don’t worry guys, I get it,” Cerny’s Instagram caption read, accompanied by a picture of her catching the ball.
Thanks to the two cheerleaders, the first round game could continue.
Tommy Kuhse added 19 points and six assists for the Gaels (26-7), the only team to beat top overall winner Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference this season. Saint Mary’s meets No. 4 UCLA, who beat Akron 57-53, in a second-round game Saturday.
“We’re a gritty, not pretty team,” Johnson said. “We all find ways to get it done. And we know that once we get going defensively and especially offensively, teams get into trouble and really figure out what they’re getting into.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis had 12 points for Indiana (21-14), who lost by their largest margin of the tournament. The Hoosiers arrived in Portland early Wednesday morning after a long night due to flight delays from Dayton to the First Four. Indiana won its first tournament game since 2016 by beating Wyoming 66-58 on Tuesday night.
Thursday’s game was Indiana’s fifth in seven days. Saint Mary’s came back fresh from a 10-day hiatus after failing in the WCC tournament title game against the Bulldogs.
“I’ve never been a coach who makes excuses,” said Indiana’s Mike Woodson. “I had to do better to finish off these guys. And I give Saint Mary’s all credit but I thought tonight we just didn’t have it and I know we have a much better team than we showed tonight. It’s up to me “
Saint Mary’s pulled away late in the first half and led by as much as 34 points – and the overwhelmed Hoosiers couldn’t catch up.
“I think we’ve worn them down,” said Gaels coach Randy Bennett. “All the factors that contributed to them playing on Tuesday and having to travel. But I don’t want to deny the fact that our lads played well when they had to play well.”
The Gaels, ranked 19th on the AP Top 25, have earned their highest seed in 11 NCAA tournament appearances. Their best result of the tournament came in 2010 when they went to the Sweet 16.
Saint Mary’s stature in the tournament was undoubtedly bolstered by the 67-57 home win over No. 1 Gonzaga on February 26.
Indiana, which has won five NCAA championships, made its 40th tournament appearance.
At least at the start, Indiana showed no signs of fatigue. The Hoosiers held a slim lead for much of the half until Alex Ducas’ 3-pointer that gave Saint Mary’s a 25-21 lead. The Gaels extended their lead to 33-26 with another Ducas 3.
Saint Mary’s crushed Indiana to lead 40-28 at halftime. Ducas, a junior from Australia, finished the race with 13 points.
The Gaels extended their lead to 55-31 in the second half through Kuhse’s 3-pointer.
“I think overall they were a stronger team than us,” said Jackson-Davis. “They hit their shots, they executed their offense and they were the better team overall.”
Indiana: The only previous encounter with Saint Mary’s was in 1957. The Hoosiers won 79-66 at Bloomington. … Jackson-Davis averaged 18.4 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Saint Mary’s: Bennett was named WCC Coach of the Year in his 21st season with the Gaels. He has won the honor four times. But the latest comes after turning over a team that struggled to finish 14-10 last season. … Saint Mary’s wore pre-match jerseys that said “No Quit.”
Saint Mary’s plays UCLA in the second round on Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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https://abc13.com/march-madness-indiana-university-cheerleaders-save-the-day-saint-marys/11661307/ March Madness: 2 cheerleaders save the day when the ball gets stuck in the NCAA first round game, Indiana vs. Saint Mary’s