The Indiana Hoosiers took another step in the right direction on Sunday afternoon, picking up a win on the road over Nebraska, 82-78.
The win snapped a two-game slide, and though wins against Maryland and Rutgers were certainly not expected, the team’s latest effort was an important one in a few distinct ways.
Recovery after (another) slow start
Despite a hot start to this year’s campaign, inconsistency has been the one criticism of the program, which hasn’t really changed since November. More often than not, it’s IU coach Teri Moren who is first to point it out. Progressing through her fifth season at the helm in Bloomington, Moren has continued to place a greater emphasis on being the tougher, grittier, more resilient team on the floor. Sunday’s performance was a fitting example of Indiana’s ability to be just that.
.@kaaywhyeem took care of business on Sunday 😤
The highlights 👇 pic.twitter.com/nkScPWTikf
— Indiana Women’s Basketball (@IndianaWBB) February 4, 2019
“We stayed with it,” IU guard Ali Patberg said. “It’s always the next play and we just focus on that. Our shots started falling when we needed them to.”
Streakiness has plagued Indiana at times in conference play (Northwestern, Ohio State), and fortunately for the Hoosiers, when a similar lapse came Sunday, Moren’s group was able to turn it around quickly enough. IU would trail by as many as seven in the first quarter, and closed the opening frame trailing by five. From there, Indiana tore through the second period shooting 73 percent from the floor and went into the half with a 36-32 lead. IU would not trail again for the rest of the afternoon.
Though Patberg and Brenna Wise have more or less been constants for Indiana this season, we regularly play the guessing game in regard to who else steps up to help from there. This is one of the program’s deepest rosters in recent history, and it became clear early on that this was going to be a team that would call on a variety of players to fill different roles.
In some cases, Teri Moren has been left with no other choice, whether it be because of injury or otherwise. Jaelynn Penn looks stronger seemingly every game, working back toward full strength and shooting the three ball with greater confidence. But on Sunday, perhaps when she was needed most, senior forward Kym Royster was the one who stood out on both sides of the ball.
After a breakout junior season, Kym Royster (@kaaywhyeem) is looking to find the same form now as a senior.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) December 22, 2018
“That’s probably the best game of her career,” Moren said. “I’ve been so proud of her patience and how she’s waited for her turn.”
Fully coming into her own as an everyday player last season, there’s no question that Royster was expected to be serving a more prominent role in the offense by this point in the year. That changed Sunday as she shot seven-of-eight from the floor for 15 points to go along with 14 total rebounds, good for her third double-double of the season.
The key moving forward for Royster is obviously consistency — more of the same — on a day-to-day basis. But for the time being, the Hoosiers have managed success by utilizing not just one or two players, but nearly the entire roster, in one way or another. Today, it just so happened that Indiana’s senior came to play.
Ball security again at a premium
It’s no secret that Indiana’s struggles lie in not being able to generate sufficient rhythm, especially at the start of the first and second halves. Inconsistency and lapses of play throughout the course of a game have been deadly. The culprit? In IU’s last three losses, the Hoosiers averaged 19 turnovers per game, with 20 apiece coming in the last two. Keeping it to 12 on Sunday in Lincoln allowed Moren’s group to possess play more so on their own terms.
“That’s been our Achilles’ heel,” Moren said. “Once we figure out how to take care of the basketball, we get good looks at the basket. That’s one of the ways you’re going to win games.”
Indiana lives and dies on rhythm. We’ve seen it at its worst, and we’ve seen what this group can do and where it can go when provided the opportunity to possess the ball and facilitate the way Moren wants to. Though there’s still basketball left to be played, a performance like Sunday’s is crucial at this point in the year.
There will be even less room for error this Wednesday, as IU returns home to welcome one of the Big Ten’s most potent offenses in Minnesota.