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Bouncing back: Indiana women's basketball does plenty to get road win over Wisconsin

After a disheartening performance Thursday in which the Ohio State gave Indiana its first conference loss of the year, the Hoosiers (14-2, 4-1) showed resilience in its ability to come back and get a 75-68 road win over Wisconsin (10-6, 1-4) Sunday. The win marked the fourth straight over the Badgers, dating back to February of 2016.

From the tip, things pointed in the right direction for IU. The Hoosiers got out to an early 13-7 lead, firing the three ball left and right. For a time in the first quarter, Indiana seemingly just couldn't miss, making over 80 percent of all shots attempted. And then came the lull midway through the first half.

It's something IU has certainly been susceptible to in the first portion of the season, and it continued at multiple points Sunday, when a loose ball surrendered by Ali Patberg turned into Wisconsin points. The Badgers kept it a game at the half, and then came out firing, while Indiana's offense grew inconsistent. Ultimately, IU did enough to squeeze out the win.

Shooting for a recovery

On Thursday in Columbus, Indiana shot just over 33 percent from the field as a unit. That changed almost immediately Sunday afternoon, as IU again got itself out to an early lead with the three ball and a few heads-up defensive plays. It's in a sense ironic, in comparison to the slow starts Teri Moren has dealt with when her team has taken the floor in the first portion of the year.

"That first quarter was really good for us, obviously to come out and hit shots the way we did," Moren said. "It was just the polar opposite at Ohio State."

Besides a hot first quarter in which the Hoosiers put up 37 (14-of 17), timely shots continued to come throughout when they mattered most. Wisconsin continued to hang around late, managing to keep the point spread somewhere around eight to 10. The Badgers' rebounding efforts certainly didn't hurt, but Indiana also managed to make just two field goals in the third period. Of those two shots in the third period, one came from the hand of Brenna Wise, which extended the IU lead to double digits, and helping to put it further out of reach.

Something also needs to be said for the effort Jaelynn Penn has put forth since dealing with a nagging ankle injury to open the year. It's now got to be the second or third time we've thought that "Jaelynn is back" once and for all, but if it wasn't already agreed upon, Sunday's performance sealed the deal. Now trying to one-up her phenomenal freshman season a year ago, Penn led the way with 21 and a perfect four-of-four from three-point territory.

Between Thursday's loss and Sunday's win, the most evident difference is undoubtedly the shooting performance alone. Streaky? Possibly. But there's no disputing that the offense carried the way to allow IU to improve to 4-1 in the Big Ten.

Royster's resurgence

The Kym Royster story has been a fascinating one to follow up to this point. On Sunday, the question regarding her role on the team in 2019 was at least partially answered. The senior almost instantaneously began pitching in under the basket and was ultimately a a major part of why Indiana was able to get out to such a lead so early. Though 11 of her 15 total points came by halftime, the sheer offensive production alone, no matter how it comes, is reassuring.

"After the Ohio State game we felt like our balance wasn't what it needed to be," Moren said. "We felt like we had an advantage on the inside [against Wisconsin], so the last couple days we've intentionally been more mindful of trying to get Kym more involved."

For the vast majority of the season, Royster has split minutes with freshman Aleksa Gulbe, an equally talented forward who went down for a few games after sustaining a practice injury. Through the past couple weeks, Royster has continued to excel and gain noticeable confidence as a leader of this team, both on and off the court. Beyond that alone, the senior has averaged four rebounds per game since opening Big Ten play.

What lies ahead?

An absolute gauntlet. After hosting Northwestern this coming Wednesday, Indiana faces quite a stretch which includes road trips to Purdue and Rutgers, as well as games against Maryland and Minnesota. There's no shortage of room for improvement, whether it be taking care of the ball (17 turnovers Sunday) or performing more consistently at a fundamental level.

"I would've liked to see us execute a little better down the stretch, especially in the fourth," Moren said. "But that gives us something that we can continue to work on and improve, so that's what we'll do. We've got to continue to get better."

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