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Bendu Yeaney shines in Indiana women's basketball's win over Northern Illinois

Indiana stayed undefeated on Sunday afternoon with a 91-73 win over the Northern Illinois Huskies.

At halftime, Indiana found themselves trailing the Huskies by one. NIU shot seven-of-14 from three and the Hoosiers turned the ball over 10 times. The Huskies finished the quarter on a 10-2 run and took a one-point advantage to the locker room.

Head Coach Teri Moren said there weren’t any major adjustments at halftime. It was all about being sharper on defense. That’s where the Hoosiers turned to sophomore Bendu Yeaney.

Yeaney was tasked with guarding NIU’s best player, Courtney Woods, who averaged 20 points per game in her first three contests.

Woods scored just 10 points, shot two-for-12 from the field and was zero-for-eight inside the arc. Five of Woods’ 10 points were scored while Jaelynn Penn was guarding her, and four of her 10 points were from the free throw line. Moren and the IU coaching staff have a lot of confidence in Yeaney’s defense.

“I think I speak for all of us when we say that we’re very confident that whoever Bendu is matched up with, as I said the other day with Florida, will have a difficult time,” Moren said.

This defensive performance for Yeaney comes off the heels of shutting down Florida’s and the SEC’s leading scorer, Funda Nakkasoglu, on Wednesday. Nakkasoglu scored just five points on two-of-eight shooting.

Yeaney has become Indiana’s go-to defender on the opponent’s best player, which according to her, is exactly how she wants it.

“I definitely enjoy it because it means they have trust in me to stop their best player and you know that’s fun,” Yeaney said. “I like the challenge.”

What has allowed Yeaney to be so aggressive on defense is her faith and trust in her teammates to help her out if she gets beat. Indiana’s defense has been something they have leaned on in the early going this season, highlighted by holding Oakland to 32 points in the second game.

“We trust each other and that’s basically what it is,” Yeaney said when asked about their defensive success. “We know when somebody gets beat, we’re going to be right there to have help.”

All of this defensive success is starting to fuel Yeaney’s offensive game. That, plus getting healthy, has resulted in solid offensive numbers. Against Northern Illinois, Yeaney finished with 17 points, on seven-of-13 shooting, and 11 rebounds. Sunday’s double-double was her first of the season and third of her IU career.

Moren doesn’t believe there’s a direct correlation between Yeaney’s defensive and offensive success. She feels that Yeaney is great at “allowing the game come to her” and is sticking to what she does best.

“She’s just one of those kids who’s going to play to her strengths, which is to beat people off the bounce, but she has proven that she can step out and hit jump shots and threes as well,” Moren said. “Yeah, Bendu just had a great afternoon.”

Indiana’s next game is a road trip to Wake Forest for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday, followed by a trip to the west coast to take on UCLA, a trip that Yeaney is especially excited about.

In the postgame press conference, Yeaney muttered under her breath, “yes, back to the west coast,” followed by a wide smile. She grew up on the west coast, in Portland, Oregon. This trip to Los Angeles means a lot to her and her family.

“I love going back to the west coast, especially now that we’re playing UCLA. I have a couple friends on the team, I’ve got friends that go to school there, friends that live in LA. My family’s talking about flying down, so it’s going to be a good time. I’m excited.”

The Hoosiers are now 5-0, their best start to a season since 2014-15. Yeaney was one of four Hoosiers in double figures, including redshirt-junior Ali Patberg, who scored a game-high 19 points.

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