Indiana began nonconference play hoping to capture a ranked win before Big Ten play began. On Sunday, they will have the opportunity to pick up their third ranked nonconference win.
UCLA travels to Bloomington as the No.10 team in the country, just two spots above the Hoosiers. The two top 15 teams will face off at noon tomorrow in Assembly Hall; the game can be seen on BTN or listened to on the radio on WHCC 105.1.
Jaelynn Penn’s chance at history
Indiana’s Jaelynn Penn will have the opportunity Sunday to put her name in the Indiana record books. The 5-foot-10 junior from Louisville is just 15 points shy of 1,000.
Penn has been an overlooked contributor for Indiana on offense so far this season. In six of her 11 starts, she has scored in double figures. She averages 10.1 points per game and is shooting 42 percent from the field.
On an Indiana team that has been highlighted by breakout scorers like Grace Berger, and national award watchlist players like Ali Patberg, it has been easy this season for Penn to get lost in the shuffle.
But her contribution of 17 points against Miami helped Indiana seal a road top 25 win, and her ability to shoot from beyond the arc has helped Indiana spread the floor in every matchup.
Penn is a consistent scoring threat that defenses don’t have the luxury of being able to forget about. If UCLA makes the mistake of doing so, she will not only be able to join the 1,000-point club but will also likely lead Indiana’s offense to a victory.
Indiana’s battle-tested season
Indiana has something UCLA doesn’t — a win against a ranked opponent. In fact, UCLA’s most substantial win so far is its nine-point victory over a 7-4 Georgia team.
The Hoosiers, on the other hand, have been able to topple No. 5 South Carolina and No. 21 Miami, both on the road.
Welcoming in a largely unproven top-10 UCLA to their home court is something Indiana is both unfamiliar with this season and will take advantage of.
Home court advantage has been good to Indiana so far this season, as they are 5-0 at home and have allowed just 50.2 points per game inside Assembly Hall.
Can Indiana’s defense stay dominant against a high-powered offense?
The story for Indiana on defense will be to bend, but not break. At home this season, Indiana hasn’t faced much of a challenge so far, which contributes in part to its low defensive points allowed stat. However, UCLA averages 75.6 points per game so far this season. Indiana’s 11th-ranked scoring defense will be tested against one of only 11 teams left undefeated this year.
The good news for Indiana: UCLA has a pair of outstanding guards. Senior guards Michaela Onyenwere and Japreece Dean lead the offense with an average of 19.2 and 13.0 points per game, respectively.
Why is this good news for Indiana? Because in addition to having Berger, who averages 1.6 steals a game, they also will enjoy the return of Bendu Yeaney. Yeaney is a defensive specialist who averaged 1.5 steals a game last season and often was given the No. 1 assignment before rupturing her Achilles in the postseason last year.
Yeaney made her first appearance of the season on Dec. 11 against Butler. She and Berger will likely take on Onyenwere and Dean, and will undoubtedly be the best defensive duo the two UCLA guards have faced this season.
UCLA also averages 12.3 turnovers a game, while Indiana has forced 17.4 turnovers per game. Indiana’s defense has been, in large part, what has propelled the team to the successful season thus far.
With Big Ten play quickly approaching, Indiana will have one more chance to capitalize on a top 25 non-conference win Sunday. UCLA will present a high-volume offense to the Hoosiers, but that’s nothing new for a team that has already taken on two top-10 teams. Home court advantage will loom large, as Indiana looks to close out a tough nonconference schedule with an 11-1 record and a six-game winning streak.