Before the season even started, Indiana women’s basketball Head Coach Teri Moren knew how she wanted to challenge her team. The Hoosiers dominated in their three easy victories over Mount Saint Mary’s, Nicholls State and Jackson State, but a sudden uptick in competition is coming fast for Indiana.
Over the next week, the true potential of this Indiana team will be realized, beginning with a matchup at Florida, followed by the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, where the Hoosiers will take on No. 6 South Carolina, defending national champion No. 2 Baylor and Washington State.
Moren was intentional about making the schedule like this. Moren explains that she wanted the team to get its feet wet early at home and then challenge itself on the road. But with a roster eerily similar to last year’s, other than the departure of Kym Royster and the addition of Jorie Allen and Mackenzie Holmes, Moren thinks this team will be unfazed.
“Knowing the leadership that I have inside the locker room and how focused our kids are on our goals,” Moren said. “I would suspect that our mindset going into [road games], even though we are away from Assembly Hall, is going to be pretty much the same.”
Indiana has steadily climbed the AP Top 25 rankings over the first few weeks of the season, jumping all the way to no. 18, marking the first time Indiana has been ranked in the top 20.
“To be the first time anything is special,” Moren said. “But it is much too early to be talking about rankings. We know that we have an incredible amount of work to still do.”
The Hoosiers have benefitted from great depth and unselfish play in this young season. While Indiana may have been on cruise control in its first three games, the upcoming matchups have remained in the back of their minds.
“[The coaches] instill in us that we are focused on us,” Berger said. “We have important games coming up against really good teams, so we are going to work on things we need to work on regardless of the score.”
The Hoosiers will get their first taste of Power 5 competition when they travel to Gainesville for a matchup with the Florida Gators. Florida enters this matchup with a 4-0 record, but like Indiana, it has yet to face significant competition. This game will tipoff at 6 p.m. ET and can be seen on SEC Network+.
Meet the Gators
Florida is under the direction of Head Coach Cam Newbauer for the third season. The Gators saw significant roster turnover in Newbauer’s first two years, with 70 percent of last year’s minutes played by new members of the team.
While Florida was only 8-23 last year, it had impressive wins in the O’Connell Center versus Texas Tech, Missouri and Alabama. In each of Newbauer’s first two seasons, the Gators showed they are a serious threat from beyond the arc. For only the second time in program history, Florida knocked down 200 or more three-pointers in back-to-back seasons.
The Gators enter this matchup scoring 71.8 points per game on 42 percent shooting. The elite three point shooting Florida possessed last year is off to somewhat of a slow start, as the team is shooting 31 percent from beyond the arc.
Redshirt-junior guard Kiara Smith leads a balanced Florida offense with 13.5 points per game. Smith is followed by freshman Lavender Briggs, who is averaging 13 points per game and shoots 42 percent from three. Moren thinks Briggs will challenge the Indiana defense with her three-point shot, but also has a skilled mid-range game.
Florida does not have one dominant rebounder, but their whole team is willing to crash the boards. With six players averaging 5.5 or more rebounds, it will take a team effort from Indiana to keep the Gators off the glass.
While Florida won 60-46 in its most recent game versus Presbyterian, its 20 turnovers represent a continued problem for the team. Florida had 17 turnovers versus Samford, 19 versus Longwood and 11 versus Grambling State.
Indiana has used turnovers as an opportunity to run in transition throughout the season, and this could play a big role against Florida. Moren sees this game being high-paced from beginning to end, which could be an advantage for the Hoosiers if they are able to force turnovers.
Defensively, Moren envisions a mixture of looks thrown at her team. While Florida played a lot of zone defense versus Indiana last year, Moren said the Gators play more man-to-man defense this year.
In its first road game of the year, Indiana will be challenged to combat the energy of an opposing crowd. Moren said Florida is planning a “blackout” themed game and expects a big crowd.
“I doubt that we are going to have many people [at Florida],” Moren said. “We are going to have to create our own energy and make sure that we realize why we are going down there. It is a complete business trip when we are on the road with these guys.”