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‘That’s what you expect from your seniors:’ Kym Royster proves capable of leading in win over Milwaukee

Kym Royster looks for an open target Wednesday night against Milwaukee. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

On a team that in some ways is so drastically different this year in comparison to last, it’s perhaps easy for a face like Kym Royster‘s to get lost in the middle of it all.

In Wednesday’s less-than-glamorous 68-66 win over Milwaukee, Royster was doing everything in her power to make sure that won’t be the case this winter. When Indiana’s defense got out to a sluggish start, Royster (3-of-6, 7 points, 4 rebounds), as well as sophomore Linsey Marchese, were there picking the team up. The duo was there when it was needed most. When the Milwaukee defense doubled down inside, Royster handled it.

Within in the first minute of the game, Royster set a precedent for the season. The senior forward grabbed a key early offensive board and proceeded to dish it out, letting Ali Patberg take care of the rest from beyond the arc. It was one of the easiest three-point plays you’ll see all season inside Assembly Hall, and just one example indicative of how IU plans to attack this season.  Royster’s ability to create second chances will allow Patberg the opportunity at uncontested shots all season long.

“Milwaukee isn’t your standard Big Ten team who can post down low and can really stretch the floor, spreading it out wide,” Wise said. “Hats off to them for being able to go out there and defend at the 3-point line. They did a great job. They’re just animals.”

With similar sentiments as what was expressed following last Friday’s exhibition win over Northwood, it again was far from pretty tonight. The Hoosier defense looked more or less lackadaisical for most of the night, and Milwaukee scored at will, finding success in transition, and around the perimeter. Along with that, Indiana at times couldn’t seem to knock down shots they would normally make.

It’s the first game of the year, this team is still settling in, and Milwaukee is a talented program — an NIT team which Indiana in fact faced and handled easily in the second round of last year’s tournament.  That is what makes the Hoosiers victory important.

Last season, if it wasn’t for a few losses to the likes of Chattanooga and Saint Mary’s, this team might’ve found itself with an NCAA tournament bid. Most importantly, Indiana found a way to win tonight when things weren’t clicking the way the Hoosiers wanted them to. On a night where seemingly every Hoosier that got minutes was giving maximum effort on the floor, Indiana still almost lost. While Wise (6-of-12, 17 points, 8 rebounds) and Patberg (3-of-8, 16 points, 8 rebounds) are expected to lead, it’s going to take more than just the two of them.

With so many newcomers, this team is frankly still in search of an identity, and will be searching for the next few weeks during the non-conference schedule. It makes Royster’s position on this team that much more crucial. If it wasn’t for the way Royster and Marchese played out of the gate tonight, it may have been a very different looking first half.

“They were really working hard down in the post to get open and I think the guards did a really good job of finding them early,” Patberg said. “Kym and Linsey fought for offensive rebounds that I think were huge.”

Kym Royster is the anchor Indiana needs this season, and the competition isn’t close. She won’t be flashy, but she won’t need to be. If she goes unnoticed all year long but performs the way she did tonight in the paint, Teri Moren‘s group should be alright. Royster is one of two true seniors on Indiana’s active roster, the other being Grace Withrow. Playing in the shadow of a couple pretty good players her past three seasons, not until this season has she been able to fully slide into a leadership role.

“That’s what you expect from your seniors,” Teri Moren said. “I thought she was pressing in the first half, they were guarding her up and under which is probably her favorite move. The message to her at halftime was just to relax a little bit.”

It just goes to show — not even the player who’s been labeled as Indiana’s senior leader this season is altogether at full go. Especially in the earliest weeks of the year, it’s important to take what happens on the court with a grain of salt. For as much as Hoosier fans are still working on getting acquainted with new faces, this team itself is still getting prepared for its season ahead. If tonight’s performance from IU’s senior leader is any indication of how this program can grind out wins even when it’s at far from its best, the future prospects of what Indiana is capable of doing later this season should certainly excite.

Connor Hines

I am a sophomore from San Diego, California studying in Indiana University's Media School. Beyond my work with The Hoosier Network, I'm a broadcaster for WIUX 99.1 FM, IU's student radio station, and BTN Student U. I previously served as beat reporter for Indiana Softball during my freshman year, and I look forward to continue to deliver fresh and innovative content with softball and much more during this year. Last summer, I interned with San Diego's Mighty 1090, the flagship AM sports radio station in my hometown. Tweet me your hot takes @ConnorHines17. Email: cohines@iu.edu

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