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IUWBB faces immediate challenges after signature win at Paradise Jam

Questions loomed about the legitimacy of this Indiana women’s basketball team before its trip to the Paradise Jam, but these questions have surely been answered as the team leaves the Virgin Islands with a 6-1 record and No. 14 ranking.

The team’s goal was to go 3-0 at the Paradise Jam, according to head coach Teri Moren, but a 2-1 record with a 71-57 win over then No. 5 South Carolina and a 78-44 over Washington State represent a successful Thanksgiving tournament. The Hoosiers’ lone loss of the weekend came against then No. 2 Baylor 77-62, a game Indiana only trailed by four points with four and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“I loved our bounce back ability,” Moren said after the win over Washington State. “I have said that before, but as I said to our kids, good teams win by six to eight points, great teams make a statement.”

Both Grace Berger and Aleksa Gulbe are day-to-day after suffering injuries at the Paradise Jam. (Ross Abdellah/HN)

While the Hoosiers showed the rest of women’s college basketball that they can contend with some of the best teams in the country, it came at a price. On the final play of the Baylor game, Aleksa Gulbe went down with an injury that kept her out of the Washington State game the following day. After playing 18 minutes versus Washington State, Grace Berger also went down with an injury.

According to Moren, Gulbe is day-to-day and Berger is day-to-day pending further evaluation, which could present Indiana with a major challenge as it prepares for No. 21 Miami (FL) tomorrow in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The team did not return back to Bloomington after the Paradise Jam, choosing to fly to Coral Gables with just three days in between games.

Gulbe and Berger have not been ruled out for Wednesday’s matchup with the Hurricanes, but day-to-day designations are not a great sign for Indiana in the short-term. Playing three games in three days and not being able to get medical evaluation in Bloomington yet are reasons to believe the Hoosiers may be without Gulbe and Berger on Wednesday.

Berger is currently leading the team in scoring with 14.9 points per game, and is also contributing 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Gulbe is second on the team in rebounds with 5.8 per game and fifth in scoring with 8.7 points per game. Both players have started every game in which they have been healthy.

With the possibility of not having Gulbe and Berger versus Miami, two obvious candidates to earn more minutes are Mackenzie Holmes and Chanel Wilson. Holmes has showed promise all year coming off the bench, averaging 13 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Holmes has great finishing ability around the rim and has learned to get easy buckets in transition. 

One problem for Holmes, though, has been on defense. Moren explained earlier in the year that Holmes is often in good position defensively, but brings her arms down on opposing players, resulting in fouls. At the Paradise Jam, Holmes had two fouls versus South Carolina and Washington State and four fouls versus Baylor. It will be incredibly important for Holmes to stay out of foul trouble, as she will likely draw a matchup with Miami’s redshirt senior Beatrice Mompremier who is averaging 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Holmes will likely have the help of Brenna Wise, Jorie Allen and Hannah Noveroske, but guarding Mompremier will be a tall task, nonetheless. 

If Berger can’t play Wednesday, redshirt freshman Chanel Wilson will take on a bigger role for the Hoosiers. So far, we have seen Wilson mainly used as Ali Patberg’s backup. Wilson has shown the ability to consistently knock down three-pointers and provide a level of speed and quickness that gives opposing defenses problems.

Wilson is averaging 5.9 points per game and is shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc. Lineups with Patberg and Wilson on the court together have given a new wrinkle to the Indiana offense at times. Wilson’s ability to bring the ball up gives Patberg space on the wing to spot up for threes and provide another scoring threat off the ball.

The Hoosiers will have been away from Bloomington for over a week by the time tomorrow’s game tips off. A tough road matchup combined with two major injuries could lead Indiana to turn to its lone senior, Brenna Wise, for leadership in a trying time like this.

Wise played an integral role in Indiana’s signature win over South Carolina, scoring 16 points on 4-5 shooting from three-point land. Before the Paradise Jam, Wise was just 2-11 on three-point shots, but returned to form in the Virgin Islands, shooting 7-15 from beyond the arc in three games.

Between her recently improved three-point shooting, leadership abilities and toughness, Wise could be an x-factor in this matchup. After the South Carolina game, Wise stressed the importance of shot-selection, a point of emphasis that will apply to tomorrow’s game. 

Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET and can be seen on the ACC Network.

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My name is Jack Ankony and I am a sophomore from Mount Prospect, Illinois. I am a huge Chicago sports fan who loves to write and talk about sports.

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