Indiana kept its season alive Thursday night with a 74-50 win over UT-Martin in the first round of the WNIT.
After a back and forth first half, the Hoosiers won the third quarter 20-7 and coasted to their 18th victory of the season.
Coming off narrowly missing the NCAA tournament for the second season in a row, the Hoosiers look to make another deep run in the WNIT, after an elite eight run a year ago. With their first-round win, the Hoosiers will take on Milwaukee in the round of 32 at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday..
Amanda Cahill had 14 points and nine rebounds, while Tyra Buss added 14 points and three assists. However, it was the play of freshman Jaelynn Penn that not only provided promise for a WNIT run, but for years to come.
Penn was the second-highest rated recruit in the Big Ten entering this season, and she has not disappointed for Indiana. Thursday night was a Penn IU hadn’t seen all season.
She set a career high in points with 25, and also added six rebounds. She shot eight-of-12 from the field including a three-of-five clip from long range.
Penn has been big in so many important games for the Hoosiers this season. Penn introduced herself in California when she scored 21 points in their loss to St. Mary’s. She scored 17 against a one-seed in this year’s NCAA tournament, the Louisville Cardinals.
In Big Ten play, Penn put up 18 points at Maryland, 21 points vs Nebraska, and 16 points in the quadruple-overtime thriller in the Big Ten tournament against Michigan State.
This season for Penn has included 10.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg and a Big Ten All-Freshman team honor.
Bigger picture is the impact this could have on the Indiana women’s basketball program. One of, if not, the best duo, is leaving the program this season. Buss and Cahill will be difficult to replace. However, Penn may be the player Coach Teri Moren was looking for.
Buss averaged 11.7 her freshman year. Cahill averaged 10.8. Penn’s 10.2 isn’t far behind that. Penn may not break all of Buss’ records and become the best player to ever wear the candy stripes, but it’s not out of the picture after what she has shown as a freshman.
More importantly, the future is bright for this program, and Penn could shine brightest in the coming years. A team led by Penn, with Royster and Yeaney returning in the starting lineup could be good. Go ahead and add the two transfers, Ali Patberg and Brenna Wise, and this team could be really good. Add a solid recruiting class led by five-star Grace Berger, this team can be great.
So, enjoy this run in the WNIT for the Hoosiers. Enjoy the great opportunity to send Buss and Cahill off the right way. But while you do, watch Penn, watch Yeaney, and realize that the future is bright for IU women’s basketball.
Penn’s 25 points vs UT-Martin was a little taste of the special talent she could be next season.