After trailing for the majority of the game and escaping with an overtime win versus Wisconsin, a trip to Purdue could have been easy to look past with No. 13 Maryland looming on Jan. 6. But the No. 18-ranked Indiana women’s basketball team was focused from the opening tip, head coach Teri Moren said, and took care of business on the road.
“I thought our ball movement was good,” Moren said. “I thought we had kids that got inside the zone and made some good reads and good plays and made some big plays down the stretch.”
Here are my three takeaways from Indiana’s 66-54 win at Mackey Arena.
Finally a fast start
An 18-2 deficit in the first quarter nearly put an end to Indiana’s Big Ten title aspirations on Jan. 30 versus Wisconsin. An 11-2 hole kept the Hoosiers out of rhythm at home versus Northwestern on Jan. 16. A trend of starting slow was starting to develop, but in a crucial road game at Purdue, the story changed.
Indiana started strong and got out to a 7-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game, which carried on to a 13-point halftime lead. The Hoosiers never trailed in the first half and played tough defense in the final two quarters to secure the victory.
Getting off to a fast start is obviously important to the score of the game, but perhaps more important is the confidence it seems to instill in this Hoosier squad. When Indiana has been at its best this year, it has jumped to an early lead and found a rhythm offensively.
It was especially intriguing to see senior Brenna Wise start strong, as she hit a corner three at the start of the game. Wise has followed up a tremendous junior season with a somewhat underwhelming senior year, but seven first half points and four rebounds got the Hoosiers going early on.
Three-point shooting still an issue
Aside from the first few games of the season, Indiana has continued to struggle from beyond the arc and Monday was no different. The Hoosiers were 2-for-10 from three and had to focus on getting into the lane to score. Ali Patberg did not attempt a 3-point shot, but was 9-for-11 from the free throw line.
Jaelynn Penn exceeded her season average, but was just 1-for-5 from three. Aleksa Gulbe, Grace Berger and Keyanna Warthen didn’t make a shot from three and were a combined 0-for-4. The Hoosiers are shooting 31 percent from beyond the arc this year and Penn, who has made the most threes on the team, is shooting 30 percent.
This is a problem that seems to have no easy fix as Moren has expressed her frustration with this in the past. After the game versus Wisconsin, Moren was unable to explain why Wise has experienced an 8 percent drop in 3-point shooting from last year to this year.
Whether it be taking fewer threes and focusing on scoring in the paint or working to get more open looks from three, something will have to change in order for this to improve.
Ready for Maryland?
Indiana responded to a three-game losing streak with a four-game win streak after taking care of business versus Purdue. But now the real challenge is approaching. The Hoosiers will host No. 13 Maryland on Thursday, a game with some major Big Ten implications. Indiana trails Maryland by one game in the Big Ten standings, and has a shot to avenge an ugly 76-62 loss at Maryland on Jan. 20.
Four games versus Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue have given Indiana a chance to breathe a little bit after a rough stretch in mid-January and prepare for Maryland. Turnovers and 3-point shooting have been the main issues that have plagued this Indiana team, and while it has won four games in a row, these problems still exist.
The Hoosiers have definitely played with more confidence throughout the last four wins, but haven’t gotten back to the level of play we saw early in the season against teams like South Carolina, Florida and Miami.
Indiana still turned the ball over 15 times Monday night and shot 20 percent from beyond the arc. In a game that could decide Indiana’s postseason fate, Maryland is a team that will take advantage of every mistake. A win could help solidify Indiana as a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament, but a loss would be tough to overcome.
“We went to their place and lost, so hopefully we have learned some lessons,” Moren said. “The silver lining is we get another shot at them.”