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Offseason storylines: Moren inks new contract, Patberg returns, Penn and Warthen enter transfer portal

A historic season resulted in a well-deserved pay day for Indiana head coach Teri Moren. 

Three days after Indiana lost to Arizona in the Elite Eight, Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson secured the leader of the women’s basketball program through the 2026-2027 season. Moren’s contract includes an annual salary of $862,500 plus bonuses for late-season success.

These bonuses are given for Big Ten regular and postseason championships, NCAA Tournament or WNIT Tournament participation and victories, conference or national coach of the year accolades and team academic accomplishments. This contract puts Moren among the highest-paid coaches in the Big Ten. 

Dolson said in over 30 years with the Indiana athletic department, he has never been more excited about the future of Indiana women’s basketball. He said Moren’s new contract places her in the upper echelon among her conference peers, rewards her achievements and recognizes the upper trajectory of the program.

“Teri Moren is the architect of an unprecedented era of success for our women’s basketball program, and I’m excited that we have agreed to a new deal that ensures she will be here for many years to come,” Dolson said. “With six straight 20-win seasons and this year’s run to the Elite Eight, Teri has built our program into one of the very best in the Big Ten.”

Now that the Hoosiers have their undisputed leader for the foreseeable future, they are back to work in pursuit of more NCAA Tournament success. Moren said the team will use a few weeks to rest their bodies, but it is right back to work after that.

Let’s break down the top storylines heading into the offseason.

Penn, Warthen enter transfer portal

Jaelynn Penn decided to opt out for the remainder of the 2020-2021 season on Feb. 7. Penn started each of Indiana’s 103 games during her first three seasons in Bloomington. She dealt with an ankle injury throughout her senior year, and opted out shortly after returning from injury.

Penn was a double-digit scorer in each of her first three seasons, and was a valuable offensive weapon alongside Ali Patberg and Grace Berger. The program has kept quiet regarding Penn’s decision to transfer, and Penn has yet to say where she will play next season. 

Keyanna Warthen, who is entering the transfer portal, is the winningest player in IU women's basketball history. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)

A member of the same recruiting class as Penn, senior Keyanna Warthen announced on Wednesday that she has also entered the transfer portal. Warthen started just one game as a Hoosier, but provided strong defensive play off the bench.

As Indiana continued its record-breaking season, Warthen became the winningest player in Indiana women’s basketball history. This is a testament to how impressive Moren and the Hoosiers have been over the past four seasons, and means that the Hoosiers are losing someone who played a big role in Indiana’s winning culture. 

Like Penn, Warthen has not yet decided where she will be playing next season. 

Patberg, starting five return

News that is perhaps more impactful than the two transfers broke on Wednesday, as well. Ali Patberg, the heart and soul of the women’s basketball program, announced that she will return to Bloomington for her seventh season.

“See you next season Hoosiers! Unfinished business,” Patberg said in a Twitter post.

Patberg was allowed to return due to the NCAA’s decision to allow each player an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19. Patberg tore her ACL during her freshman season at Notre Dame, and sat out during her third year of college when she transferred to Indiana.

Because of this, Patberg will be one of, if not the most experienced player in women’s college basketball during the 2021-2022 season. Patberg will return to an Indiana roster that will look very similar to this year’s, aside from the loss of Penn and Warthen.

Barring any late additions to the transfer portal, Indiana will return the entire starting five that reached the Elite Eight. Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes will return as first-team All-Big Ten players, alongside Aleksa Gulbe who has started 57 games over the past two seasons and Nicole Cardaño-Hillary who stepped into a starting role when Penn opted out.

This means the Hoosiers have a chance to be even better next year after gaining valuable experience during a run to the Elite Eight. 

Depth, 3-point shooting areas of concern

While the Hoosiers project to return the entire starting five from the program’s deepest NCAA Tournament run, there are still questions to be answered. Indiana’s Elite Eight loss to Arizona revealed a number of issues that had existed for the majority of the 2020-2021 season, but were never fixed.

Indiana shot 0-for-9 from 3 against Arizona, and finished the year shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc. Moren and the Hoosiers proved they can lock down on defense and score in the paint to win games like they did over top-seeded NC State, but poor outside shooting can quickly derail a season.

Berger and Gulbe were the only Hoosiers to shoot above 30 percent from 3 this season, aside from Danielle Patterson and Warthen who combined for 17 attempts. Chloe Moore-McNeil showed flashes of 3-point shooting ability when she hit two 3s in a row against Michigan, but finished the season 4-for-27.

Aleksa Gulbe was one of two Hoosiers to shoot better than 30 percent from 3-point territory this season. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)

The transfer of Penn and Warthen also begs a question about Indiana’s depth. During the NCAA tournament, Indiana only scored 11 points off the bench, eight of which came when the game was already decided against Belmont.

Each player who is projected to come off Indiana’s bench next season averaged 2.1 points or fewer, playing below 10 minutes per game. Moren said after Indiana’s loss to Arizona that she could notice Holmes was fatigued, which makes bench development even more important.

Kiandra Browne is a candidate to take the next step in a year, as she showed flashes of tough post defense and finishing ability in the paint. Paige Price joined the team midway through the season, and will be another intriguing player to come off the bench next year.

Price was ranked as the No. 1 ranked player in Australia by Aussie Basketball USA Pathways, the No. 3 international player and a four-star recruit by Premier Basketball Report. On a global scale, Price was rated the No. 55 overall recruit by All Star Girls Report.

With the talent Indiana boasts in the starting lineup, it doesn’t need a very deep, productive bench. But if one or two players can emerge as a reliable 3-point shooter or a backup forward, it could go a long way to helping the Hoosiers reach an even higher level. 


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