Facing its first road test in Big Ten play, the No. 14 Indiana women’s basketball team would need all hands on deck versus an 11-1 Rutgers squad. Six Hoosiers finished with at least 10 points and used a strong third quarter to defeat the Scarlet Knights 66-56 and move to 12-2 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play.
Here are my three takeaways from Indiana’s road win over Rutgers.
Lessons learned from last year’s loss
Exactly one year ago, Indiana traveled to Piscataway, but left with a bad taste in their mouths. The Hoosiers blew a nine-point halftime lead and were flustered by the constant pressure of the Rutgers full-court press, resulting in 21 turnovers, 14 of which came in the second half.
“A year ago we didn’t [handle Rutgers’ pressure] very well here and we had to learn a hard lesson,” Head Coach Teri Moren said. “I think we did a much better job tonight. I think once we got across the timeline we remained aggressive and that was a difference from a year ago as well.”
After watching film from last year’s game, the Hoosiers felt much more prepared this year, according to Moren. Indiana was able to stay calm, knowing they would be facing constant pressure.
“It’s kind of in their DNA,” Moren said. “They are wired to play one way and that is as hard as they can. They were as aggressive as we knew they would be.”
Defense contains Arella Guirantes
Rutgers’ guard Arella Guirantes came into today’s matchup averaging 19.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. While her 23 points in today’s contest make it seem like she had her way versus the Indiana defense, it is important to look deeper into the box score.
Guirantes shot 9-24 from the field and did not attempt a single three-point shot the entire game, something that happened all year long. The Hoosiers did a great job of running Guirantes off the three-point line, forcing her to take more contested shots inside the arc. Rutgers as a team shot 1-15 from beyond the arc.
“We said to our guys, ‘She’s going to take a lot of shots, they need her to take a lot of shots,’” Moren said. “Our job is to contest and make every shot as difficult as we can make it and realize that she is going to hit some of those.”
Indiana kept Guirantes off balance by having multiple defenders guard her throughout the game. Moren said Jaelynn Penn started on Guirantes, but thought Ali Patberg did the best job containing her. Indiana’s overall strategy in guarding Guirantes, according to Moren, was based around her shot fake and spin move, two of Guirantes’s go-to moves. Moren said the team focused on bringing in another defender to help when Guirantes spun, in an effort to alter her shot.
“We just tried to as disruptive as we could be with her,” Moren said. “We needed to. We had to.”
Hoosiers handle tough environment at the RAC
Playing on the road in the Big Ten is difficult against almost any opponent. Add a full-court press and an energized crowd and it becomes even more difficult to leave with a win. Patberg said when Rutgers began to make a run in the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers knew what they had to do to right the ship.
“We knew they would [make a run] because they are relentless,” Patberg said. “We stayed calm, we stayed composed and I think that was huge for us.”
Outside the comfort of Assembly Hall, it is always important to take care of the ball and while Indiana committed 15 turnovers today, it locked in at the beginning of the second half. Just one third quarter turnover helped lead the Hoosiers to an eight point advantage this quarter, which helped calm the crowd and was ultimately the difference in the game.
“With the crowd getting into it, that gives you a whole other level of aggression, they energize you,” Moren said. “Even when they started chipping away at the lead we did have, I thought our kids handled themselves in a great way.”
Moving forward, the Hoosiers have some time to rest after two Big Ten road games in four days. Indiana’s next matchup comes on Jan. 6 when the team hosts Illinois at 7 p.m. After the victory over Rutgers, Patberg was asked how it feels to be a team that is “hunted” now that they have established themselves as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten.
“Coach said every game that we have a chip on our shoulder because we are ranked now,” Patberg said. “I still feel like we are the ones hunting. We have not done what we have set out to do, so I think we are still the ones being the hunters.”
“We haven’t arrived yet and we have a lot we want to do.”