In the Big Ten, games are often decided on who can win the battle in the trenches. Establishing the line of scrimmage is crucial to any Big Ten team’s success, as the conference as a whole tends to lean on the run game and defense more than the high-flying teams of the Big 12. Indiana’s defense ranked ninth in the conference in both total rushing yards allowed per game and yards allowed per rush in 2019. In order to take the next step and compete with the upper echelon of the Big Ten, containing the run game is vital for the Hoosiers in 2020. Let’s break down the unit that will aim to improve on last year’s ranks. Leaders of the group With the graduation of Reakwon Jones, the Indiana defensive line is without its leading tackler from a year ago. This leaves some question marks surrounding the unit, but head coach Tom Allen’s run-stoppers could benefit from strength in numbers. In addition to Jones, the Hoosiers also lost Allen Stallings IV to graduation, who was tied for the team lead in sacks. However, the player that tied Stallings IV with five sacks in the 2019-2020 season is redshirt senior Jerome Johnson. Johnson is expected to be a leader of the defensive line coming off a season in which he earned Indiana’s Chris Dal Sasso Award for outstanding lineman. Johnson was fifth among Hoosiers in tackles with 43 and was second in tackles for a loss with seven and a half. Joining Johnson as a leader on the defensive line is another upperclassmen, junior Demarcus Elliott. Elliott began his college career at Garden City Community College in Kansas, where his team lost in the 2018 NJCAA national championship game. He arrived in Bloomington for his sophomore season last year and immediately made an impact. Elliot was eighth among Hoosiers in tackles with 35, and also totaled three sacks and five tackles for a loss. His sophomore campaign earned him a spot on All-Big Ten Honorable Mention list by the media. Rounding out the core of the defensive line is senior Michael Ziemba. During his junior year, Ziemba made his presence felt through game-changing plays, leading the team with two fumble recoveries and finishing second in tackles for a loss with 6.5. Players who could take the next step Aside from Johnson, Elliott and Ziemba, there aren’t too many Hoosier linemen whose stats jump off the page, but valuable depth is building on this roster. Alfred Bryant enters his redshirt junior season with Indiana and is coming off a solid season backing up Jones and Johnson. Bryant finished the 2019-2020 season with 25 tackles to go along with one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. While Bryant hasn’t been showcased as a starter for the Hoosiers, he has 23 games under his belt, which will help prepare him for a bigger role in Kane Wommack’s defense this year. Another under-the-radar name that could surprise people is sophomore Sio Nofoagatoto’a. Nofoagatoto’a wasn’t a common name appearing at the top of the stat sheet last year, but he made noticeable improvements by the end of the season. In the Hoosiers’ Gator Bowl loss to Tennessee, Nofoagatoto’a recorded a career high in tackles in a game with three. He was one of Allen’s more notable defensive recruits in recent years, and was ranked as the No. 70 defensive tackle in the nation out of high school. A name that could be familiar to the Indiana faithful is Greenwood, Indiana native Jovan Swann. The Hoosiers recruited him out of Center Grove High School, but Swann instead played his first four years of college at Stanford. As a graduate transfer, Swann brings a lot of experience to the Indiana defensive line unit. While at Stanford, Swann appeared in 39 games and started 19 over four years at defensive end. The 6-foot-2, 270-pound Swann was second on the team with 5.5 sacks and fourth in tackles for loss with eight. His breakout performance of the 2019 season came against Cal where Swann recorded career highs in sacks and tackles for loss en route to earning the Frank Rehm Award, which is given to the most out standing player in the team's game versus Cal. The final defensive lineman with the potential of having a breakout season is lesser known to Hoosier fans, but could be a household name by the time he graduates. Damarjhe Lewis was Indiana’s second highest rated recruit in the 2020 class behind wide receiver Rashawn Williams. Lewis arrives in Bloomington as the No. 42 ranked defensive tackle in his class and stands at 6-foot-3 and 291 pounds. He was named the 3-AAAAA Defensive Player of the Year in Georgia after his senior season. Lewis is listed as a freshman on the Indiana roster, but was able to take classes at IU during the spring 2020 semester. This allowed him to also participate in spring practice and jumpstart his growth as a Hoosier. While Lewis might not be relied on to make a huge impact immediately, it will be interesting to track his development as the season progresses. Led by Johnson, Elliott and Ziemba, who have a wealth of experience playing Big Ten football, the Indiana defensive line is shaping up to be a solid group. Improving on its rush defense, which ranked ninth in the Big Ten a year ago, is very possible with these three leading the way and a group of younger athletes eager to make an impact.
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Tommy Sommer sat in the locker room with his teammates listening to head coach Jeff Mercer speak in preparation for a series versus Memphis. Mercer addressed rumblings about the spring baseball season getting pushed back or possibly canceled, but Sommer never thought these rumors would come to fruition. Mercer had the attention of the room, but as associate head coach Justin Parker glared down at his phone, Mercer’s words were suddenly washed away. Parker received an alert on Twitter saying that the 2020 college baseball season had been canceled. “You kind of felt the air get sucked out of the locker room,” Sommer said. “Everybody really just kind of fell into a little bit of a depression.” At first Sommer was shocked, but as he surveyed the room, Sommer began to understand the impact it would have on his teammates. For the seniors who had big plans for their final season in the program, this was it. “That was really hard seeing those guys being so emotional,” Sommer said. “You understand how they have given four years to this program and getting that taken away is really tough.” The Hoosiers were off to a 9-6 start with solid wins over No. 11 LSU, No. 17 East Carolina and a 17-2 slaughter of in-state rival Purdue. Although it was later announced that seniors will be granted an extra year of eligibility, a potentially special season came to a screeching halt. Indiana was coming off a 2019 Big Ten title, and though the Hoosiers lost their top three starting pitchers and two power hitters, Sommer and rising senior third baseman Cole Barr agree this year’s team could have reached greater heights than a season before. “We felt like at the beginning of the season that…we were just going to dominate the Big Ten like we did the year before and really put ourselves on a national stage to host a regional and be in a really good spot to go deep in the tournament,” Sommer said. Sommer recognizes the key losses the team endured, but thinks this year’s squad was more close-knit than a year before. He was in line to be a weekend starter for Indiana and felt he and other players in his class were ready for a breakthrough season. At first it was tough for Sommer to deal with the reality of having his junior campaign canceled, but he has focused on a single phrase for motivation throughout his recent training. “Control what you can control” is often preached by Mercer throughout the Indiana dugout and has been at the forefront of Sommer’s mind during the quarantine period. This phrase has helped Sommer focus on personal development and working to improve each day. Because of this mindset, Sommer said his life in quarantine has been made up of the same things he would be doing if there were a spring season. “The people that use this as a frustrating moment, or start to give up or feel dissatisfied with where they are at and take the semester off or the summer off are the people that you are going to continue to pass up on,” Sommer said. “I am just looking at this as an opportunity to keep working on my craft and get better and hopefully come out next year and even further step ahead than I was at this year.” The one major change in Sommer’s mindset has been a shift away from focusing on the in-game aspect of baseball toward a focus on strength and conditioning, as well as speed and agility. Sommer also likes to watch film on MLB pitchers such as Cole Hamels and Gio Gonzalez because of areas of their games he hopes to improve upon. For Barr, he gets hitting tips by watching videos of two of the greatest hitters of all time, Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds. These videos help him gain insight into their mentality at the plate and allow him to try out new strategies at bat. Working out and hitting five to six times a week has filled Barr’s quarantine schedule, but he has also implemented a unique strategy to improve himself at the plate. Aside from normal batting practice, Barr has also been taking batting practice with a broomstick and a wiffle ball. “My thought was that if I can hit these in the wind when it is doing all kinds of crazy stuff, then a baseball should be a lot easier,” Barr said. Sommer and Barr have both been fortunate to have friends nearby who have converted their garages into weight rooms. This has allowed them to keep a similar workout regimen to what they would be doing at school. In addition, the baseball team’s athletic performance coach William Alli has been working closely with players to design workouts to keep them in top shape while away from campus. Alli said he communicates with players over the phone or on Zoom to answer questions and explain workouts. At the beginning of quarantine, Alli sent out a survey to all of the athletes he works with to get an idea of how many of them have equipment at home or not. This has helped him design multiple workouts depending on the availability of equipment for each athlete. Throughout his career as a strength coach, Alli has built a substantial library of exercise videos explaining movements that he has taught in the past. Alli said being able to send these videos out to serve as a refresher for people has helped a lot because he is unable to work with athletes in-person, which is a big change from his normal job. Alli’s job as an athletic performance coach is based on his ability to work in a hands-on fashion with athletes, which has made the transition difficult at times. He points out the frequency of communication as the biggest hurdle over the past few months, but hasn’t let these changes affect his motivation to help athletes improve their bodies. “My job isn’t just to teach people how to lift,” Alli said. “My job is to physically, and somewhat mentally, develop young men and women into better athletes and better people, so I don’t take that lightly. Everything has been pretty easy to say, ‘Hey, what can we do next?’” Sommer and Barr have been hard at work during the quarantine period to stay in top shape thanks to the help of Alli, but now it is time to start playing baseball. While certain college baseball summer leagues like the Cape Cod League have been canceled, both Sommer and Barr will be able to put their skills to the test at the Grand Park League this summer. The Grand Park League began on June 14 and features 12 Hoosiers from the 2019 squad, as well as a few incoming freshmen and University of Houston transfer and Fishers, Indiana native Craig Yoho. As of June 15, Barr led the league in average home run distance at 402.78 feet. There are five teams competing in the Division I bracket and eight teams made up of players from NAIA, Division II and Division III schools competing against each other.
Recently the sports world has been saturated with replays of classic games and March Madness brackets for just about anything, but April 5 came with very important news regarding the Indiana women’s basketball team. Freshman forward Jorie Allen announced she would be transferring from Indiana. In one season as a Hoosier, Allen played 11 minutes per game and averaged 1.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and shot 47 percent from the field. Allen released a statement Sunday afternoon. “I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Moren and staff have given me, but I believe it is in my best interest to pursue other athletic and academic opportunities. I wish the IU staff nothing but the best, I wish my former teammates all the success in the world and I would like to thank the fans for all the support they’ve shown me this past season,” Allen said. Allen was named the 2019 Indiana Miss Basketball, and arrived in Bloomington as the No. 52 recruit in the nation according to ESPN. Though Allen never managed to crack the starting lineup for Indiana, she did appear in every game off the bench. Allen scored a season-high nine points against Nicholls State where she played a season-high 23 minutes. “Jorie and I have spoken and we agree that it’s in her best interest to leave Indiana. We wish her much success moving forward and thank her for her contributions to our program,” head coach Teri Moren said in a statement.
You could fit almost every person in Mackenzie Holmes’ hometown inside Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to watch her play. Gorham, Maine sits in the southern corner of the state and is home to Gorham High School, where Holmes won two state championships in front of a student population of just over 800. When the freshman forward walks through Indiana University’s Bloomington campus every day, she is greeted by a student population of nearly 50,000. “I love how many different faces you see every day,” Holmes said. “You never see the same face usually when you are walking to class so I enjoy that.” While there is a stark contrast between her hometown and the campus she now calls home, there is one definite similarity that Holmes recognizes between the two. Strong basketball culture. “It is very tight-knit,” Holmes said. “I come from a small town…but we would sell out our high school games. People are very passionate about basketball, but since it is such a small state people don’t realize that because people don’t really pay attention to it.” Head girls’ basketball coach Laughn Berthiaume said in his 16 years at Gorham High School, and 13 years as head coach of the girls’ basketball team, that he has progressively seen the fanbase and basketball culture grow. Berthiaume credits this growth to a tradition of players coming back after graduation to give back to the community. Berthiaume is proud to see alumni return to Gorham to help out with basketball camps, or just being someone for younger kids to look up to. While a lot is given back to the community after graduation, Berthiaume said this culture starts during the athletes’ high school years. “I just think they valued being a part of it,” Berthiaume said. “It is one of the things that it is just easy. It is something that they came into the program knowing, so leaving the program on the other end they want to do the same for the kids coming through.” Holmes was rated as a five-star prospect out of Gorham High School and the No. 53 recruit in the 2019 class. As a senior, she was named the 2019 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging 30.1 points, 16.7 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 2.9 steals per game on 63.1 percent shooting from the floor.
As midweek games start to become more frequent, Indiana Head Coach Jeff Mercer gets the opportunity to try out some new arms on the mound. Mercer seems set on a weekend rotation of Gabe Bierman, Tommy Sommer and Braydon Tucker, but more midweek games means more fresh faces taking the ball for the Hoosiers. David Platt took the mound for Indiana today and kept the Cincinnati Bearcat lineup tame for the majority of his outing. A big day from Grant Richardson at the plate propelled Indiana to a 6-2 victory to move Indiana to a 9-6 record overall. Let’s break down the major storylines from the Hoosiers’ win. Solid outing by Platt in first career start For today’s matchup with Cincinnati, that fresh face was Platt. Platt is a 6’3, 210 pound freshman from Quakertown, Pennsylvania, who has appeared five times out of the bullpen this year. Until his 1.1 inning, three-earned run relief appearance on March 7 versus San Diego, Platt had been one of the more reliable bullpen arms for Indiana. In his other four appearances, Platt pitched a combined 6.1 innings and gave up just one earned run on four hits. But today was his chance to show Mercer what he can do in a slightly different role. Platt’s final line versus Cincinnati was five innings, eight hits, two earned runs, one walk and four strikeouts. The two runs Cincinnati scored off Platt came with either zero or one out, which shows that Platt did a nice job of limiting the damage and finishing innings strong. Moving forward, Platt has proven to Mercer that he belongs in the Indiana rotation, whether it be out of the bullpen or starting midweek games. Richardson continues hot streak In the team’s opening series versus LSU, Richardson made it known that he was ready to have a big season. He was named the Big Ten Player of the Week in the first week of the year, and hasn’t stopped since. Richardson was Indiana’s main source of offense against Cincinnati. In the bottom of the third inning, Richardson hit his fifth home run of the season to give the Hoosiers a 3-1 lead. Richardson stayed hot in the fifth inning with a double to center field to plate Drew Ashley. Indiana’s offense only managed four hits in this game, but was able to rely on clutch at bats from Richardson. The Hoosiers have struggled throughout the early part of this season with situational hitting and leaving runners on base, but today Richardson provided a blueprint on how to knock in runners. Both of Richardson’s RBI hits came with two outs, showcasing his ability to perform in the clutch. With his 3-for-4 day at the plate, Richardson increases his batting average to .424 on the season, which is a team-high. The centerfielder also leads Indiana with 22 runs scored, 25 hits, 17 RBIs and five home runs. Richardson was also 2-for-5 in Indiana’s 5-4 loss to Evansville on March 10, which means a solid weekend series versus Memphis could result in another Big Ten Player of the Week award. Bullpen seals the deal After scoreless performances from Matt Litwicki and Connor Manous, the Indiana bullpen will be well-rested in advance of a weekend series versus Memphis starting on March 13 in Bloomington. Litwicki was Mercer’s first choice out of the bullpen today versus Cincinnati and threw three scoreless innings, striking out one batter and giving up three hits. Indiana’s pitching staff struck out just five batters today, which put more pressure on the Indiana defense. The Hoosiers committed two errors today, which continues to be an issue though it did not end up affecting the outcome against the Bearcats. Following Litwicki’s performance, Connor Manous slammed the door in the ninth inning, not giving up any hits or walks. The strong performance from the Hoosier bullpen was a welcomed sign after getting roughed up in final two games of the San Diego series last weekend. Moving forward, the Hoosiers welcome the Memphis Tigers to town this weekend for a three game series. Indiana went 1-1 in its two midweek games this week, but should be at full strength against Memphis. Each of the three upcoming games this weekend can be see on BTN+.
Indiana looked to have found its groove after a dominating 17-2 mercy-rule win versus Purdue on March 4, but a 1-2 weekend versus San Diego revealed inconsistencies that still exist on this team. The Hoosier bats stayed hot in the first game of Saturday’s double-header, but did not have a hit until the seventh inning in game two. San Diego’s pitching staff limited the Indiana lineup just enough on Sunday and the IU bullpen struggled mightily, leading to a 13-5 win to clinch the series victory. Let’s break down the major storylines from a 1-2 weekend from the Hoosiers. Errors remain a real issue After a successful 2-1 weekend at the Keith LeClair Classic a week ago, the only negative head coach Jeff Mercer could come up with was sloppy defensive play. Mercer was confident these issues would naturally be fixed as a result of more outdoor practices as the weather begins to warm up, but it looks like the Hoosiers will need a few more weeks to straighten up on defense. In Saturday’s 9-2 victory in game one of the doubleheader, Indiana’s bats did enough to claim a victory, but an error kept it from being a more impressive win for Indiana. In the seventh inning a Jordan Fucci error led to a run for San Diego and also ended Gabe Bierman’s day on the mound. While Fucci hasn’t had much time in left field this season, Mercer needs his bat in the lineup. Indiana had built a large enough lead for this run to ultimately become irrelevant, but it shows that IU still has a ways to go defensively. The Hoosiers dug themselves into an early hole in game two of the doubleheader with two unearned runs in the fourth inning. It was a pitchers duel through three innings, with neither side getting a hit until the top of the fourth inning when San Diego took advantage of Indiana errors. Tommy Sommer was pulled after three no-hit innings, and the Indiana defense and bullpen did the team no favors in the remaining innings. San Diego catcher Adam Kerner led off the fourth inning with a double, and a Jeremy Houston error opened up the inning for San Diego, scoring two unearned runs. While Mercer is confident that Indiana will clean up its defense soon, losses like game two on Saturday won’t sit well with Mercer moving forward. Emergence of Cooper Trinkle To this point of the season, the Hoosiers have been able to rely on the consistency of players such as Elijah Dunham, Grant Richardson, Drew Ashley and Cole Barr. Along with the more recent success of Fucci, they have powered the Indiana offense. But the Hoosiers have proven to be much more dangerous when hitters towards the bottom of the order begin to produce. And this weekend versus San Diego, that player was Cooper Trinkle. Trinkle transferred to Indiana this season after playing two years at John A. Logan College. Mercer has been successful in his recruiting from John A. Logan after a successful season from pitcher Tanner Gordon last year in his only season as a Hoosier. Drew Ashley has been a mainstay at second base for Indiana for over two seasons, but the recent success of Trinkle has forced Mercer to shift Indiana’s lineup and defensive positioning. On Saturday, Ashley was Indiana’s DH in the first game, and played both catcher and left field in game two. In Sunday’s game, Ashley started in left field and hit a solo home run. The versatility of Ashley has allowed Mercer to keep Trinkle in the lineup, which has benefitted the Hoosiers overall. Trinkle led Indiana with three hits in game one on Saturday and also scored two runs and had one RBI. Trinkle again led the Hoosiers in hits in game two, going 2-for-4 at the plate, but it wasn’t enough for an IU victory. The junior went 1-for-5 with one run scored on Sunday, but even another great day at the plate would have likely proven irrelevant as the Indiana pitching staff gave up 13 runs. Moving forward, Trinkle has proven that he belongs in the Indiana lineup, and luckily for Indiana, Ashley is versatile enough to make this happen. On the season, Trinkle is batting .364 in 22 at bats with eight hits, two doubles and six RBIs. Subpar weekend for majority of pitching staff Gabe Bierman was a bright spot in game one on Saturday, but Indiana was hurt by mostly mediocre outings from the starters, as well as the bullpen. Bierman pitched 6 1/3 innings, and gave up one earned run on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts. It looks like Bierman is starting to find a groove on the mound, stringing together a couple nice outings the past few weeks, but the same cannot be said about the majority of the IU pitching staff. Sommer threw three no-hit innings in game two on Saturday, but three walks and a hit by pitch boosted his pitch count and cut his outing short. In this game, Sommer did not allow any runs and struck out three batters. Matt Litwicki replaced Sommer to begin the fourth inning and managed to pitch four innings. Litwicki’s final line was four innings, two runs (one of which was unearned) a walk and three strikeouts. His ability to go deep into the game helped save a few bullpen arms, but allowed San Diego to take the lead. San Diego really blew the game open when David Platt replaced Litwicki to begin the eighth inning. Platt pitched 1 1/3 innings and gave up three earned runs (and one unearned run) on four hits, one walk and two strikeouts. While two of San Diego’s six runs were unearned and scored as a result of defensive errors, the IU pitchers were unable to command the strike zone. In Sunday’s loss, Braydon Tucker took the mound and was constantly hit by the San Diego lineup. Tucker pitched 4 2/3 innings, but gave up 10 hits and three walks, which resulted in five runs for San Diego. One of San Diego’s runs came off of another Indiana error, but it is safe to say this was one of Tucker’s weaker outings of the season. Grant Sloan relieved Tucker with two outs in the fifth inning, but was unable to limit a hot San Diego lineup. Sloan managed just two-thirds of an inning and gave up two runs on one hit, two walks and two strikeouts. The game was already decided, but Alex Franklin continued the bullpen struggles in the eighth inning, giving up three earned runs on three hits in one inning. Staying true to the weekend theme, four runs scored off Franklin, but only three were earned after a Grant Richardson throwing error. To finish things off, Ty Bothwell was roughed up in the ninth, giving up two runs on one hit. Indiana has two midweek games coming up at Evansville on Tuesday and at home versus Cincinnati on Wednesday. Theses midweek games will provide an opportunity for some of Indiana’s bullpen arms to show what they can do, as Indiana will likely save Bierman, Sommer and Tucker for the weekend series versus Memphis starting Friday. Thirteen of Indiana’s next 14 games will be at Bart Kaufman Field, which could help the Hoosiers settle into a rhythm. Mercer has remained steadfast in his belief that Indiana’s defense will improve as a result of simply playing and practicing outside more often. With five games approaching this upcoming week, limiting errors will continue to be important as Indiana moves on with an 8-5 record.
INDIANAPOLIS — It's hard to beat any team three times in a season. But to blow out what could be considered the best Indiana women’s basketball team in program history three times in one season is unprecedented. That’s exactly what Maryland did to Indiana on Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal, defeating the Hoosiers 66-51. “When you have an opportunity to play a team a third time, you always feel like maybe this is our moment, our night, but you have to play almost perfect to beat them,” head coach Teri Moren said. “But I thought we battled. I'm really proud of our guys and just how hard they played. I thought we tested them defensively for sure.” Ali Patberg stayed aggressive after a dominant 28-point performance in Indiana’s win over Rutgers on March 6, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Hoosiers in the game in the second half. Patberg finished with 16 points and three assists, but was only 6-for-21 from the field. Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said she thought the key to guarding Patberg and Grace Berger was keeping the press on for most of the game. She said throwing as many defenders as possible at IU’s guards helped limit their production. Indiana trailed by just four points heading into halftime, but its offense often felt stagnant and forced in the second half. The Hoosiers handled Maryland’s press well in the first half, but the constant pressure kept Indiana out of rhythm for the remainder of the game. It looked at first like it would be another big day for Indiana offensively after making its first four field goals of the game, but things quickly took a turn for the worse in the second half. The Hoosiers shot 2-for-11 in the third quarter and struggled to find a consistent second scoring option. Mackenzie Holmes quietly had an impressive second half with eight points and three rebounds, but wasn’t much of a factor in the first half. Because of this, the hole Indiana dug itself in the first 15 minutes of the second half made a comeback unrealistic. An Ashley Owusu offensive foul — followed by a Brenna Wise three with six minutes left in the fourth quarter — gave Indiana a sense of life in the second half. However, the Hoosiers would never cut the deficit below 11 points after this basket for the rest of the contest. “Obviously we knew going into this game, Patberg was really hot,” Frese said. “We really wanted to make her have to work for everything. I thought our zone kind of changed the game. I thought it gave them more defenders to have to look at, and I thought that was probably the difference.” Three-point shooting and turnovers have been consistent areas in which Indiana has struggled this year, and proved to be killer versus Maryland. On Saturday, Indiana was 4-for-19 from beyond the arc and 12 Indiana turnovers did not help its comeback effort, either. Maryland’s balanced attack was on full display, with five Terrapins scoring nine or more points. Moren said Ashley Owusu was particularly difficult to guard today because of her ability to drive to the basket. The Big Ten Freshman of The Year finished with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. Part of Owusu’s effectiveness came in transition, helping Maryland outscore Indiana 15-0 in fast break points. Moren said one of Indiana’s goals going into the game was to treat every made basket like a missed basket in order to emphasize getting back on defense. “Owusu is like a freight train coming down the floor,” Moren said. “They are great at getting the ball inbounded quickly and getting up the sideline before some of our guys got turned around.” While Indiana couldn’t get it done versus Maryland in the semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament, the Hoosiers now get some much needed rest before the NCAA Tournament. Selection Monday for the women’s NCAA tournament is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on March 16. With the third loss to Maryland, Indiana will likely stay on the five-seed line, meaning IU will narrowly miss out on the chance to host potentially two NCAA tournament games. The difference between the four and five seed is huge, but Indiana was 10-2 on the road this season and 3-2 in neutral site games. “I think that’s a different element, when you are away from Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, just the toughness you have to have, the focus you have to have,” Moren said. “And I think when you look at what we have done away from the Hall, it’s pretty impressive.” The Hoosiers finished the season winning their last three regular season games and one game in the Big Ten Tournament. Perhaps more important is Indiana’s ability to rest and get healthy before the NCAA tournament, as IU has a chance to make its first Sweet 16 in program history. Moren thinks the fact that the Big Ten had so many talented teams will help prepare the Hoosiers for the tournament. "There is no bottom of the barrel in the Big Ten," she said. "If you are not ready to play every single night, whether you are at home or away, I think we have proven in this league that anybody can win. The parity has been incredible, especially this season.” There's no doubt that Teri Moren is proud of her team’s toughness this weekend in Indianapolis, and hopes that attitude can lead to an NCAA Tournament run. Patberg got banged up multiple times in this game, but her drive to win represents Indiana’s mindset heading into the tournament. “We know this — we still have more basketball ahead of us, and that’s something we are going to look forward to,” Moren said. “I know that tonight we will be disappointed and they’re going to get a couple days off and then we’ll be back to work on Wednesday.”
INDIANAPOLIS — She didn’t take any shots, she didn’t grab any rebounds and she didn’t assist on any of Indiana’s 24 made field goals. But the toughness and gritty plays Grace Waggoner made represent the kind of player head coach Teri Moren wants in her program. With 4:19 left in the first quarter, Waggoner checked in the game and on the very next play, drew a charge on one of the best players in the Big Ten, Arella Guirantes. When Waggoner checked back into the game in the second quarter, it only took a minute and 23 seconds to draw yet another charge on Guirantes. “For her to come up big with those charges in the first half says a lot about the tough kid she is,” Moren said. “She is that Indiana kid that when her number is called she responds.” While Waggoner can’t be credited with any important baskets or rebounds, the value she brings on the defensive end for the Hoosiers it hard to match. Waggoner’s impact on the defensive end helped Indiana take down Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal 78-60. The Hoosiers were led by an incredible first half performance by Ali Patberg that set the tone for the aggressiveness with which Indiana would play for the rest of the game. Patberg scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds in the first half alone.
After taking care of business with a 78-60 win at Michigan on Sunday, the No. 20 Indiana Hoosiers claimed their 23rd win of the season, which tied a program record set during the Hoosiers’ 2017-2018 WNIT championship run. But in a season in which Indiana also set a record for number of conference wins with 13, the Hoosiers have bigger aspirations heading into the Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers’ second half dominance against Nebraska last Thursday secured a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament and shows Head Coach Teri Moren has her team peaking at the right time. After dropping three games in a row in the middle of a grueling Big Ten schedule that could feature eight teams in the NCAA Tournament, the Hoosiers recovered to win nine of its final 11 games and claim the four-seed. Indiana picked up three key wins in a row to finish the season and earn much needed rest heading into postseason play. The tournament tips off on March 4 with 13-seed Illinois versus 12-seed Wisconsin followed by 14-seed Penn State versus 11-seed Minnesota, but the Hoosiers will not take the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis until March 6 at approximately 2:30 p.m. In ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s March 2 Bracketology, Indiana was slated as a four-seed for the first time in over a month after a strong end to the season. Keep in mind the difference between a four and five seed for Indiana, or any team for that matter, has serious implications for tournament success. In the women’s NCAA Tournament, each of the top-four seeds in each region host the first two rounds of the tournament. But when the Hoosiers woke up on the morning of March 3, Creme revealed that Indiana still has work to do in order to host two potential NCAA tournament games. Though DePaul lost its final two regular season games, it jumped Indiana for the final four seed. While this is all still speculation, Indiana might need to accomplish something it hasn’t done this year, even after recording so many program milestones: beat the Maryland Terrapins. Indiana’s first loss to the Terrapins came on Jan. 20 in College Park when Shakira Austin led Maryland to a 76-62 victory with 22 points and five rebounds. The Hoosiers were outscored by 16 points in the second half of the second matchup on Feb. 6 when Maryland won 79-69. Neither matchup ended up being particularly competitive, especially since Indiana turned the ball over 32 combined times in the two games. While taking down Maryland will obviously be a tough task, it is likely what it will take for Indiana to jump back to the four-seed line and host two potential NCAA Tournament games. Brenna Wise strongly believes she will play at Assembly Hall again this season. “Deep down inside I don’t believe that tonight is the last night I will play in Assembly Hall,” Wise said on Feb. 27. “I am still holding on to that and working on that. If it is, I am forever grateful and will never forget this night, but it will continue to be the driver over the next 10 days.” Those 10 days Wise mentioned are now passing by quickly as the Hoosiers prepare for the Big Ten Tournament. Its first opponent is still unknown, but Indiana will take on the winner of five-seed Rutgers versus the winner of the Illinois and Wisconsin matchup on March 4. If the bracket stays true to the chalk, Indiana will take on Rutgers on March 6. These two teams haven’t played since Dec. 31, a 66-56 road win for Indiana. Jaelynn Penn and Grace Berger starred for the Hoosiers in the team’s only game against Rutgers, scoring 14 and 13 points, respectively. The biggest challenge for Indiana ahead of this potential matchup will be guarding point guard Arella Guirantes, who was named to the First-Team All-Big Ten. The Hoosiers have two first-team representatives of their own in Ali Patberg and Grace Berger, but limiting Guirantes will remain a challenge. In the first matchup, Guirantes scored 23 points on 9-for-24 shooting. Guirantes is an efficient scorer, averaging 20 points per game on 41 percent shooting. Moren has said all year that Indiana will hang its hat on its defense, and with a matchup against an elite scorer like Guirantes, there is no better time for the entire team to lock in on the defensive end. A win against Rutgers would help Indiana’s case to jump to the four-seed line, but it likely won’t matter unless it can take down a Maryland team that has won 14 straight games. Maryland poses a tough challenge with such a deep roster that contains unanimous First-Team All-Big Ten guard Kaila Charles, as well as Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ashley Owusu to go along with four other Terrapins who received Big Ten honors. A near-perfect performance from Indiana is likely what it will take to defeat Maryland, and that starts with two areas of Indiana’s game that have plagued the Hoosiers so often this year: three-point shooting and turnovers. Fourth quarter collapses versus Iowa, Northwestern and Ohio State can be credited with too many turnovers late in the game, and have to be a point of emphasis as Indiana uses extra rest to prepare for this weekend’s tournament. Indiana’s two most recent wins looked similar to dominant performances earlier in the season, which is exactly the kind of momentum a team needs heading into the postseason. While a 14-for-39 effort for the the Hoosiers from beyond the arc is nearly 10 percent higher than the team’s season average, Indiana still turned the ball over a combined 29 times in the last two games. As Indiana approaches a Big Ten Tournament with major NCAA Tournament seeding implications, the idea of hosting NCAA Tournament games will be a driving force to motivate the Hoosiers. When Indiana won the WNIT in 2018, there were more than 13,000 fans in attendance, and if Wise’s mindset can propel the Hoosiers to a potential victory over Maryland, expect the Indiana faithful to be in full force.
The defense committing six errors was the biggest negative that Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer could come up with when asked about his takeaways from the Hoosiers’ 2-1 weekend. And for Mercer, a slow start defensively is in part because of the lack of practices his team has been able to hold outside on a real field. After taking down No. 17 East Carolina and High Point to begin the weekend, the Hoosiers fell to No. 13 Ole Miss on Sunday. Going 2-1 in a weekend with games versus two ranked teams, Mercer is proud of the toughness and competitive attitude his team employed both at the plate and on the mound. Moving forward, Indiana has proven it can be a dangerous ball club as long as it focuses on cleaning up errors that put a damper on what was an overall successful weekend. “The biggest thing for us is to continue to grow defensively,” Mercer said. “That is the one area having not been outside that much that we haven’t been able to practice. I am fully confident that we will get better defensively. We’ll make better decisions managing runners and managing the run game and being able to take care of the ball and execute.” With errors being one of few problems that have hurt Indiana so far, let’s break down an eventful weekend of baseball at the Keith LeClair Classic. Fucci answers the bell In this weekend’s preview, I wrote about the need for another hitter not named Grant Richardson, Elijah Dunham or Cole Barr to step up and produce in the Indiana lineup. Well, that’s exactly what first baseman and Samford transfer Jordan Fucci did this weekend. Fucci finished the weekend going 6-for-13 at the plate with one home run, six RBIs and three doubles. It is nearly impossible for Fucci to fill the void left at first base by Matt Lloyd last year, but the power-hitting ability Fucci showed this weekend will help determine just how good the Hoosiers can be this year. “Jordan really changed the course of the weekend for us offensively,” Mercer said. “...He has had a great track record of being able to produce in the middle of the lineup with a lot of RBI, a lot of extra base hits.” Mercer said Indiana put in a lot of work in the batting cages this week and for Fucci, it obviously paid off. Fucci made a small adjustment leading up to this weekend’s series that helped the redshirt senior lead the Indiana offense. Mercer said Fucci focused on opening up his batting stance slightly, which allowed Fucci’s bat head to get out and stay through the ball. While Fucci’s recent success may seem like a personal improvement, Mercer thinks having his bat in the middle of the Indiana lineup benefits the entire team. “[Fucci] is very physically gifted and he really helped the offense operate by doing his job,” Mercer said. “That helps everybody in front of him, and obviously puts Collin Hopkins in a good position to be successful too.” With a dangerous bat like Fucci’s now coming alive, the Indiana offense looks like it is starting to round into shape as Big Ten play awaits in the last weekend of March. Stellar outings for Sommer, Scott Tommy Sommer has been the Friday starter in each of Indiana’s first two weekend series, but this past weekend in Greenville, North Carolina, Mercer decided to switch things up. Gabe Bierman took the mound on Friday, leaving a matchup with High Point for Sommer. In what was his best outing as a Hoosier, Sommer dominated the High Point lineup for 8 2/3 innings before being pulled. Sommer gave up five hits, one earned run, three walks and five strikeouts, and if it weren’t for a double, error and walk in the ninth, it would have been the first complete game for Sommer wearing the Indiana cream and crimson. “I’m really pleased with where we are at,” Mercer said. “I look at our at bats, I look at the way we pitched the ball and both of them were really good…On the mound the stuff has been good, we have to put guys away.” Sommer’s ability to pitch deep into Saturday’s game also benefited the Hoosiers’ bullpen for the rest of the weekend. Braden Scott had to make a long relief appearance in Friday’s win over No. 17 East Carolina and got some important rest as he watched Sommer mow down the High Point batters. Bierman exited the game after just four innings on Friday, and Scott helped secure an Indiana victory with four shutout innings in relief to go along with three hits allowed and seven strikeouts. Together, Scott and Sommer were both main reasons the Hoosiers returned to Bloomington with two important wins. Hoosiers show ability to compete with top teams, but errors remain an issue Not even 10 games into the season, Indiana has answered some big questions left as a result of 10 Hoosiers getting drafted to the MLB after winning the Big Ten regular season title. A rotation of Sommer, Bierman and Braydon Tucker looks solid as conference play enters sight, and more recently, players such as Fucci, Drew Ashley and Hunter Jessee have stepped up to complete a dangerous Indiana lineup. Holding a 6-3 record, the Hoosiers haven’t been perfect by any means, but wins over No. 11 LSU, No. 30 South Alabama and No. 17 East Carolina prove that Indiana can hang with some of the top teams in the country. Indiana has yet to play a game at Bart Kaufman Field where it went 21-5 last year, but has claimed wins to show that Mercer has the Hoosiers headed in the right direction after losing a chunk of last year’s 37-win team. Moving forward, the biggest challenge that Indiana faces is eliminating defensive errors. Gabe Bierman’s start on Feb. 28 was marred by errors that allowed three runs to score in the second inning. A Drew Ashley error in the ninth inning versus High Point played a role in Sommer pitching 8 2/3 innings instead of the full nine. Altogether, the Hoosiers committed six errors at the Keith LeClair Classic and have committed 15 errors as a team, compared to just 10 errors by their opponents. Moving forward, an increased level of focus when playing the field will be crucial to Indiana’s success. Mercer thinks as his team plays more games and practices more outside, these defensive struggles will naturally decrease. For Mercer, this is one of few things he has pointed out as a major area in which the Hoosiers need to improve. “Offensively our bats have been really good, we have competed well on the mound and we have played intelligently,” Mercer said. “So we just have to take care of the ball better and I am confident that we will.”
Senior Night usually marks the final home game for the seniors on the No. 22 Indiana women’s basketball team. But with high hopes for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, that was not the mindset of Brenna Wise on her senior night, finishing with three points, eight rebounds and a signature charge taken. “[Wise] has given us everything that she has had,” head coach Teri Moren said. “But the legacy that will be Brenna Wise will be [that] she to me is a once in a lifetime type of kid that you get the pleasure of coaching.” With an 81-53 victory over Nebraska, Indiana has set a program record with 22 wins and clinched the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament beginning on March 4. This means the Hoosiers have earned a double bye and will play in the 2:30 p.m. game on March 6. While Thursday was the final home game on the schedule, Brenna Wise is not ready to call this her final home game. According to Charlie Creme’s Bracketology, Indiana is currently a five seed, but if the Hoosiers can carry momentum from Thursday's victory, a run to finish the season might mean more games in Assembly Hall. In the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the top four seeds in each regional host the first two rounds of the tournament. Moving forward, Wise will use this as motivation for the final stretch of games leading up to the NCAA Tournament. “Deep down inside I don’t believe that tonight is the last night I will play in Assembly Hall,” Wise said. “I am still holding on to that and working on that. If it is, I am forever grateful and will never forget this night, but it will continue to be the driver over the next 10 days.” On Thursday, the Hoosiers led for entire game and looked like a team poised for tournament run. Indiana began the third quarter on a 21-4 run and won the second half 48-26. Finishing games strong has been an issue at time for Moren’s team, but was quite the opposite Thursday. Ali Patberg scored 19 of her 26 points in the second half, putting any possibility of a Nebraska comeback out of question. “I was just trying to be aggressive and attack the basket,” Patberg said. “Coach told me to be aggressive and that when I am aggressive, my teammates are more aggressive, so that’s what I did.” Indiana’s second-half domination made it feel like early December in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers that ran teams out of the gym in nonconference play and the beginning of Big Ten play were back versus Nebraska. Patberg led the way, but it was Indiana’s depth that was revived in Thursday’s victory. Four Hoosiers finished in double digits as Grace Berger scored 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Cornhusker forwards had no answer for Mackenzie Holmes in the first half as the freshman finished with 11 points, six rebounds and two assists. Aleksa Gulbe finished with 11 points as well, and played great defense all night, holding Nebraska’s Ashtyn Veerbeek to just five points and two rebounds. The way Indiana got out in transition was indicative of the style of play that got Indiana off to one of the best starts in program history. Eighteen fast-break points and 16 assists exceeded some of the goals Moren mentioned at the start of the season and are an obvious recipe to success moving forward. Indiana’s next matchup is on March 1 against Michigan. A win in Ann Arbor plus a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament could propel the Hoosiers to the all-important four seed. It may be too early to tell, but Wise’s driving force to finish the season strong makes it a possibility. “I am just forever grateful to even have the opportunity to play at Assembly Hall,” Wise said. “Every night I am going to leave it all out there. I always say that if Assembly Hall could talk, oh the stories it would tell.”
It’s a rational approach to use the nonconference schedule to ease a team into the season. In theory, playing against weaker competition at the start of the year will help a team gain confidence, make adjustments and work through problems before the heart of conference play. But Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer’s approach is quite the opposite. After opening the season 1-2 with a road series against No. 11 LSU, the Hoosiers defeated No. 30 South Alabama last weekend and are now presented with a challenge that could prove to be even greater than that. With a 4-2 record and a four-game winning streak, Indiana will travel to Greenville, North Carolina this weekend for the Keith LeClair Classic that promises more top competition for the Hoosiers in nonconference play. A three-game weekend set begins Friday with a matchup against No. 17 East Carolina, followed by High Point on Saturday and No. 13 Ole Miss on Sunday. As another tough weekend approaches, Mercer points out execution at the plate as a main point of focus, but knows experiences against some of the top teams in the country will naturally help this. “We are going to have to get better and be more disciplined and be able to execute our job more,” Mercer said. “That just comes with growth and just playing and maturity… I expect us to improve.” Let’s break down the top storylines as Indiana prepares for the Keith LeClair Classic. IU pitching staff to face a clash of styles, offensively The Hoosiers open the weekend with No. 17 East Carolina that is off to a 7-1 start. East Carolina is not a team that will hurt Indiana by hitting the long ball, but the Pirates possess a deep lineup with hitters who will constantly put the ball in play. Mercer said after the South Alabama Tournament that Indiana will need to focus on defense and taking care of the ball, which will be even more important versus an East Carolina team that is batting .290. The Pirates are led by Bryson Worrell, who comes into the game with a .444 batting average, 12 hits, three doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs. The Pirates only have five home runs as a team this year, but hitters such as Thomas Francisco and Connor Norby will keep the IU defense on its toes. Francisco comes into the game with a .440 batting average, 11 hits, one home run and seven RBIs. Norby will be a threat on the bases for Indiana catcher Collin Hopkins to keep an eye on. Norby has two stolen bases to go along with a .321 batting average. Much different from East Carolina’s lineup is the Ole Miss offense. The Rebels have already blasted 17 home runs and have 61 RBIs compared to just 29 from Indiana. Ole Miss is led by Anthony Servido and Cael Baker, each of whom have hit four home runs and 10 RBIs this season. Servido is also a threat on the basepaths with four stolen bases already. Though he has only started four games for the Rebels, Hayden Leatherwood has proven to be a real threat at the plate wherever he bats in the order. Leatherwood’s home run versus Southern Miss was the difference maker and his six hits in 11 at-bats are something for the IU pitchers to keep their eyes on. If Mercer sticks with the same rotation as the first two weekend series, sophomore Braydon Tucker would face a deep Ole Miss lineup that has seven different hitters with a home run. Tucker has only started two games on the mound as a Hoosier, but has a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings pitched so far. A matchup with a 5-4 High Point club on Saturday will give the Hoosiers some time to catch their breath in between two ranked matchups, but can’t be taken lightly. Sam Zayicek leads the High Point lineup with a .394 batting average, two home runs and 10 RBIs. While High Point hasn’t shown the ability to hit the ball out of the park on a regular basis with just four home runs this season, four batters with an average of .344 or higher will challenge the Indiana pitching staff. Will a new face step up this weekend? In the opening series against LSU it was Grant Richardson. At the South Alabama Tournament it was Elijah Dunham. Both players were named Big Ten Player of the Week after having scorching hot weekends at the plate. Most recently, Dunham went seven-for-11 with a home run, two doubles, three RBIs, four runs and four walks. But for this Indiana team to reach the same level of offensive prowess as last year’s Hoosiers, it will need an underclassman or two to emerge as a real threat at the plate. There have been flashes of great play from a few new faces, but if Indiana hopes to take down two ranked opponents this weekend, a group effort will be required. Outfielder Hunter Jessee from South Lebanon, Ohio, has been the most consistent freshman bat in the IU lineup with a .263 batting average and five hits in five starts. Jessee’s most notable moment of the season so far came in game two versus LSU when he hit a one-out triple to centerfield and scored from a Grant Richardson sacrifice fly. Fellow freshman and Bloomington native Ethan Vecrumba has earned five starts but has yet to solidify his spot in the lineup with just one hit in 16 at-bats. It may take some time for these freshmen to develop under the direction of Mercer, but a number of transfers have also proven to be candidates to fill in some of the holes last year’s team left due to the MLB draft. Western Kentucky transfer catcher Collin Hopkins has shown glimpses of special play with four RBIs, but is batting .211 and is 0-for-6 when attempting to throw runners out on the bases. Aside from Richardson and Dunham, juniors Cole Barr and Drew Ashley haven’t missed a beat from successful 2019 campaigns. Barr’s two home runs and Ashley’s .345 OBP leading off for Indiana have helped power the Indiana lineup, but these four can’t be the only sources of production for the Hoosiers moving forward. Execution with runners in scoring position One of the biggest issues with Indiana this year has been producing at the plate with runners in scoring position. Mercer said he was happy with the team’s approach in the weekend series versus LSU, but did not feel the same after the South Alabama Tournament. Mercer mentioned execution and going up to the plate with a definitive plan as two areas of improvement for the Hoosiers to work on moving forward. So far, Indiana has left 57 runners on base this year compared to just 43 from its opponents. Last year the Hoosiers scored a large chunk of their runs from the long ball after setting a school record with 86 home runs. This year Indiana might have to change its approach at the plate, though. Richardson, Dunham and Barr will be consistent home run threats at the top of the order, but that does not look like the case for the rest of this Indiana team. An enhanced focus on situational hitting and simply getting on base more often by working counts could be the recipe for success as the Hoosiers work through losing much of last year’s home-run-heavy roster.
After dropping its first two games of the season to LSU, the Indiana baseball team caught fire at the South Alabama Tournament. The Hoosiers defeated UT-Martin 3-2 this past Friday, followed by a 4-2 win over South Alabama and 12-3 route of Siena to extend their win streak to four games. Three wins this weekend give the Hoosiers a 4-2 record, which Mercer said he will take based on the level of competition his team has been challenged with. “Mostly what I would take is we have shown glimpses of being able to play a high level of baseball [and] to really pitch,” Mercer said. “We have shown flashes of good defense, but we have to be better overall taking care of the ball. We have to be able to stay focused for nine innings.” Let’s wrap up the weekend with some key storylines from the South Alabama Tournament.
There are few environments that will test both a team’s physical ability and mental toughness more than a trip to Baton Rouge to take on the No. 11 LSU Tigers. Playing in front of a packed stadium of passionate college baseball fans was an immediate wake-up call, but that’s the challenge Indiana head coach Jeff Mercer presented his young Hoosier squad with in the first series of the season. Indiana left the bayou with a 1-2 record, but Mercer believes this was a positive experience for the Hoosiers. Sophomore outfielder Grant Richardson was named Big Ten Player of the Week and showed early signs of a breakout season. Richardson was 6-for-12 with a home run and five RBIs. While starting pitchers Tommy Sommer and Gabe Bierman weren’t at their best to start the year, sophomore Braydon Tucker impressed with six innings of one-run baseball. Most importantly for Mercer, it forced Indiana to play with toughness that will be necessary if it wants to repeat as Big Ten champions this year. “I tell the guys all the time, you can’t buy toughness,” Mercer said. “The only way you can pay for it is through your investment, through hard work and through dedication and discipline to plan. If you can stay true to the plan and if you can worry about the name across the front of your jersey and be committed to that, you are capable of far more than you think you are.” Moving forward, the Hoosiers journey their way through the south with a weekend tournament at South Alabama’s Stanky Field. Indiana will begin the weekend with a matchup against UT-Martin on Friday, followed by No. 30 South Alabama and Siena to round out the weekend. Let’s break down the upcoming weekend for the Hoosiers. Promising pitching matchups await Approaching the batter’s box with a thought-out plan will be a continued point of emphasis this weekend. After facing one of the top pitching staffs in the country versus LSU, this weekend appears to give the Hoosiers a few more favorable matchups on the mound. UT-Martin’s Friday starter Cannon Winston struggled against Saint Louis in the season opener on Feb. 14 and is a likely candidate to open the weekend tournament versus Indiana. Winston pitched four innings, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks. Compared to LSU’s Cole Henry who shut down the Hoosiers last Friday, this looks to be a more favorable matchup. As the weekend continues, Saturday’s showdown versus South Alabama looks to be the biggest test for the Hoosiers. South Alabama is currently ranked No. 30 in the country, but hasn’t gotten the best out of its starting pitchers so far. Miles Smith is the likely starter for the Jaguars on Saturday, which should light up the eyes of the Hoosier hitters. Smith struggled with control last Saturday versus Campbell, walking three hitters and plunking another. Smith managed just three innings and gave up five hits and four runs. If the IU lineup can execute the same plan Mercer talked about versus LSU, the offense could have a big day on Saturday. Rounding out the weekend with Siena, the Hoosiers will face yet another pitcher who hasn’t had the best start to the season. Siena’s Sunday starter Ben Seiler was credited with the loss in the team’s 9-1 loss to UCF last Sunday. Seiler managed 3.2 innings, but gave up five runs on five hits and two walks in the process. Mercer said after the team’s series versus LSU that he was proud of the team’s ability to execute a plan at the plate, which will continue to be important this weekend. "I was more impressed than I have been in a long time with our maturity and discipline and our intent to execute a plan," Mercer said. "If our plan worked or didn't work is irrelevant, our intent in all facets was where I felt it should be throughout the weekend. From there, you can work off of that." Containing power hitters Keeping the ball down in the zone became a bit of an issue last weekend for Indiana versus LSU. Tommy Sommer allowed two home runs in his four-inning season debut, and while Gabe Bierman kept the LSU offense inside the ballpark, a few fly balls allowed the Tigers to score five runs off Bierman, though two were unearned. Looking at some of the premier hitters in this weekend’s tournament, there should be an emphasis on forcing ground balls for the Indiana pitching staff. After giving up two home runs versus LSU, Sommer will face UT-Martin’s Sean Dixson, who already has a pair of home runs of his own. Along with Dixson, Sommer will have to be careful against Wil Lafollette in the middle of the UT-Martin order. Though Lafollette only started one of the team’s three games so far, he has proven he belongs in the lineup, leading the team with five hits and four RBI in nine at bats. On Saturday, a pair of power hitters in Ethan Wilson and Hunter Stokes will challenge the Indiana pitching staff. Though the two have been home run or bust at times with averages .250 or lower, Bierman will still need to hit the corners of the strike zone to challenge these two. Wilson hit one home run, a double and drove in five runs in the team’s opening weekend. Stokes made his three hits count, taking one out of the park and scoring two runs. While Wilson and Stokes have shown their power already, South Alabama has really struggled, especially with strikeouts, to begin the season. The Jaguars have struck out 56 times this year, and Richard Sorrenti, who only has two at-bats this year, is the only player on the roster who has not struck out. What it comes down to Starting pitching was the biggest question mark for this team before the season and will remain a question until this young staff finds a rhythm. The South Alabama Tournament presents another great opportunity for the Indiana pitching staff to gain experience after struggling at times versus LSU. Sommer, who entered the season with the most starting pitching experience, took the mound in the Hoosiers’ season opener on Feb. 14. Sommer pitched four innings and gave up five runs on five hits while walking three batters and striking out five. As referenced earlier, Sommer struggled with command at times in his first start and wasn’t able to keep the ball down in the zone on a consistent basis, with all five earned runs coming from two home runs. In game two, Gabe Bierman started the game on the mound for Indiana and had a similar result to Sommer. Bierman gave up seven hits in five innings pitched and finished with three earned runs. Control was a bit of an issue for Bierman, who finished with two walks and one hit by pitch. Bierman left the game with the Hoosiers trailing 5-1, but the Indiana defense wasn’t at its best at times. Two unearned runs scored off Bierman after a Jeremy Houston error at shortstop and a sacrifice fly in the second inning. An encouraging sign for Bierman was his ability to force groundouts. Bierman’s off-speed pitches kept LSU hitter off-balance at times, inducing six groundouts. A somewhat new face toed the rubber for Indiana in the second game of Saturday’s double-header. Mercer gave the ball to sophomore Braydon Tucker, who gave up two runs in 6.2 innings out of the bullpen in 2019, to start the game. Tucker found the most success versus a deep LSU order, pitching six innings and allowing one run on four hits. Tucker’s lone earned run came in the sixth inning off a sacrifice fly out to left field. The bottom line is Sommer and Bierman simply have to find a way to be more effective moving forward. Sommer found great success last season with his curveball, which could play a big role versus UT-Martin. Tucker was outstanding in his first start as a Hoosier, and performances like his versus LSU will be huge for this pitching staff moving forward.
Indiana head coach Teri Moren has said time and time again that her team hangs its hat on defense. And in the most important possession of Sunday's game, Moren chose to trust her defense. Ali Patberg had just sunk two free throws to cut the deficit to two points with 38 seconds remaining in regulation. Instead of choosing to foul and extend the game, Indiana’s defense allowed Ohio State's Madison Greene to dribble out the entire shot clock. Greene began to drive the lane, but as the shot clock was winding down, she was forced to throw up an awkward mid-range floater that hit the backboard and went in. With this dagger from Greene, who scored 22 points, Ohio State claimed an 80-76 victory over Indiana. Moren chose to trust her defense, which has helped the Hoosiers reach win No. 20 at the earliest point in a season in program history with a win last week. Moren explained that because she had a timeout left, she felt like there was enough time to score after Ohio State’s possession. But that is only true with a defensive stop. “Our defense has been reliable throughout the season,” Moren said. “It has been really good at times and let’s face it, it’s a runner from 12 to 15 feet out that banks off the backboard and goes in. That’s tough luck on our part. Our kids played it the way they needed to. They contested it hard, it was a rushed shot, but the thing went down." A poor, but familiar, finish This game represents another double-digit lead that the Hoosiers have blown this season. Eerily similar to the loss Indiana suffered versus Northwestern in overtime on Jan. 16, Moren credits this loss to simply not being able to make shots down the stretch. Ohio State finished the game making all 11 of its final 11 field goals. With the Buckeyes on fire down the stretch and Indiana making just one of its final seven field goals, basketball can become a game of simply making more shots than your opponent down the stretch. Ali Patberg again led the way for the Hoosiers with 22 points, but Indiana had one of its least efficient games shooting the ball as a team. Jaelynn Penn scored 14 points, but was just 4-for-12 from the field. Berger was 4-for-11 from the field and was never able to find a true rhythm Sunday on offense. As a team, Indiana’s 3-point shooting woes continued versus Ohio State, shooting just 4-for-15 from beyond the arc. While her numbers might not stick out on the scoreboard, Aleksa Gulbe played a quietly fantastic game. Gulbe finished with 14 points and five rebounds, but the majority of her damage came from the free-throw line. Gulbe drew seven fouls and finished 9-for-12 from the charity stripe. “As we tell our kids, you either make the shot or get to the free-throw line,” Moren said. “[Gulbe] is being really aggressive not just offensively, but also rebounding the ball for us and she has been a great five-defender for us.” Ohio State had an obvious height advantage down low, which has caused Indiana problems throughout the year. However, Gulbe was able to foul out Ohio State’s Dorka Juhasz, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, and also kept Aaliyah Patty in foul trouble for the majority of the game. With Mackenzie Holmes being a non-factor throughout most of the game, scoring just seven points and grabbing one rebound, Gulbe stepped up in a big way, but it wasn’t enough to lead Indiana to a victory. Energy from an unexpected place With this loss, Indiana moves to 20-7 overall and actually has more home losses than road losses. Dropping to fourth in the Big Ten rankings, there is a sense of urgency among this team that Moren talked about after the game. This urgency has come from a player many Indiana fans may not have expected: walk-on Grace Waggoner. Waggoner was the first guard off the bench Sunday for the Hoosiers, ahead of regulars Keyanna Warthen and Chanel Wilson. While she only played three minutes and twenty seconds, the fact that she got in the game before Warthen and Wilson represents her hard work in practice. “When we go to our bench and you give up an open three, Keyanna, then we are going to make an adjustment,” Moren said. “It is our job as coaches to put the players that are going to give us the best possible chance of winning games out on the floor.” Moren explains that Waggoner’s long arms and athleticism make her valuable on the defensive end. Because of the hard work she has shown in practice, Moren decided to reward Waggoner with an opportunity she doesn’t often see. “[Waggoner] has proven every single day in practice that she has been steady,” Moren said. “She has been sound, she pays attention, she wasn’t going to try to do anything offensively out of the ordinary, she is going to play within herself and she was going to make all of those hustle plays.” Perhaps rewarding a walk-on with minutes like Waggoner played Sunday will light a fire under certain players on this Indiana team. If that’s what it will take to get this team to start playing like it did at the start of Big Ten play, we might see even more minutes for Waggoner moving forward. Regardless of what it takes to motivate this team, the NCAA Tournament is approaching fast. The Hoosiers have nearly a week to prepare for a road matchup with Minnesota, who Indiana defeated 65-52 earlier in the season. For Moren, simply shooting the ball at a more efficient rate is crucial moving forward, but this will only change if the Hoosiers remain confident. “It’s not going down for us right now,” Moren said. “But we have got to stay encouraged and stay confident that sooner or later that [ball] is going to find the bucket for our players.”
After losing to Louisville in the 2019 regional final, IU also lost three players who combined to start 136 games in the infield last year. First baseman and team RBI leader Matt Lloyd, along with senior catcher Ryan Fineman, left for the MLB and shortstop Justin Walker transferred to Purdue. Because of this, there will be a few new faces around the infield at Bart Kaufman Field in 2020. Last season, third baseman Cole Barr was one of the most consistent players for the Hoosiers. Starting in all 60 games in 2019, Barr tied for the team lead in home runs with 17 and was second in RBI with 51. He turned down the Seattle Mariners after being drafted in the 37th round and is a lock to start at third base for head coach Jeff Mercer’s Hoosiers. Mercer said during the preseason that he is looking to players such as Barr to provide a sense of leadership in the dugout and on the field. Barr has a chance to be one of the Big Ten’s best power hitters, and could propel himself to elite status if his defense is cleaned up after leading the team in errors last season with 17. Alongside Barr, we could see senior Jeremy Houston win back the shortstop job after Walker took over at short about halfway through last season. With Walker at Purdue now, Houston is the obvious first candidate, but will need to prove to Mercer that he can hit Big Ten pitching consistently in order to win the job back. Last season, Houston started at shortstop in 31 games and finished the season with a .210 batting average and only 10 RBIs. Houston also provides some value on the basepaths, stealing two bases last year, but will have to hold off a couple transfers for the job. Mercer kept his John A. Logan College connection strong as infielder Cooper Trinkle joins the Hoosiers as junior this season. Trinkle, alongside senior Samford University transfer Jordan Fucci, could potentially takeover the shortstop job if Houston’s struggles at the plate continue over to this season. Fucci was injured for most of last season, but batted .273 with 25 RBIs in his junior season. Trinkle is more of a speedster, stealing 17 bases at John A. Logan College last season, but also showed he can handle the bat, finishing with a .368 batting average in 37 games. Aside from Barr, the only other constant in the infield this season seems to be at second base. Last year, Drew Ashley started in 59 of 60 games and was one of the more sure-handed defensive players for Mercer, committing just four errors. Ashley isn’t going to hit the ball out of the park much, but provides good balance for an Indiana team that was second in home runs in the entire country last season. Ashley finished the year batting .284 and led the team in hits — even beating out Matt Lloyd, who slugged a team-high .573. Ashley figures to be a consistent presence at the top of the Hoosiers' lineup this season. Lloyd was not only a cornerstone in the Hoosiers’ lineup in 2019, but he also served as the team’s first baseman and at times the designated hitter. His departure to the MLB leaves a big hole at first base, which makes the position one of the biggest question marks heading into the season. Mercer did not give any insight into who would fill in for Lloyd at first base and it may be too early to tell. This may be a position where the job is won by someone whose bat Mercer has to have in the lineup. Sophomore Jake Skrine appeared in 14 games last season and his 6-foot-2 frame would be a big target for the Hoosier infield, but at this point it is all speculation. Catcher was a position that hurt Indiana at times last year. When senior Ryan Fineman went down with an injury, Wyatt Cross stepped in for the Hoosiers and struggled defensively at times, committing four errors and allowing some crucial runs from passed balls. However, IU landed an important transfer in now-senior Collin Hopkins from Western Kentucky. Mercer said he has already seen growth from Hopkins both offensively and defensively before any games have been played. Hopkins is a 6-foot, 190-pound catcher from Nashville, Tennessee, and started 19 games for Western Kentucky last season. Hopkins struggled a bit at the plate last year for the Hilltoppers, recording a .206/.304/.221 slash line. Mercer will have options behind the dish, though, as two other catchers have joined the program. Brant Voth is a 6-foot-2 freshman from Simi Valley, California, and was ranked as the country’s 43rd best high school catcher last year. Mercer landed yet another John A. Logan College transfer in junior catcher Hunter Combs. Combs had an impressive sophomore season, batting .376 and driving in 48 runs. A smart hitter at the plate, Combs struck out just 13 times in 39 games last year. Drew Ashley was also mentioned by Mercer as a potential catcher this year because of his experience in high school. Ashley is a proven second baseman in the Big Ten, but if Hopkins, Voth and Combs aren’t ready for increased competition, it could be Ashley behind the dish. With a mixed bag of a lot of experience and little to no experience, it will be interesting to see how the IU infield plays out. For Mercer, he’s intrigued to see if any underclassmen will step in the team’s first weekend few weekend series of the year. “Being able to be in big environments and to be able to play pressure-packed baseball really helps to shape the character of you and your toughness,” Mercer said.
Illinois forward Ali Andrews drained two free throws to put the Illini up nine points with just under five minutes left in the second quarter. It looked like the No. 20 ranked Indiana women’s basketball team would need another epic second half comeback to avoid a crushing loss to an Illinois team that was 2-10 in conference before tonight. But when Indiana has had its back against the wall this season, it has looked to no one else but Ali Patberg, a top-10 finalist for the 2020 Nancy Lieberman Award, which is given to the nation’s best point guard. After Andrews’ two made free throws, Patberg assisted Aleksa Gulbe on a layup, hit a 3-pointer and sunk a midrange jumper all in the final three minutes of the half to cut a nine-point deficit to two going into halftime. From that point forward, Illinois’ lead would never get greater than two points, showing just how important that three-minute stretch from Patberg really was. Patberg has had equal, and many even better games statistically in her career, but it was her leadership and calm demeanor in adversity that proves she is one of the nation’s best point guards. Patberg’s finished with 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds to lead the Hoosiers to a 59-54 road win versus Illinois. With this win, Indiana moves to 20-6 overall and 10-4 in conference. While it may seem like a routine win for the Hoosiers, this win marked the earliest point in a season in program history to win 20 games. The previous record was set at 20 wins in 29 games in both the 2007-2008 and 2016-2017 seasons. "Sometimes all the wins aren't pretty and we are leaving tonight with an ugly win, but we're happy," head coach Teri Moren said. The Hoosiers were on the ropes early on, shooting just 11-for-30 in the first half. Mackenzie Holmes, a double-figure scorer on average, finished with zero points and only one rebound. But the luxury of playing two forwards that play essentially the same minutes is when one is having an off night, it is time for the other to step up. And that’s exactly what Gulbe did in Thursday's game. The sophomore forward finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks while having one of her more efficient shooting nights, going 7-for-9 from the field. It was also a welcomed sign that Gulbe was able to play 31 minutes and commit just two fouls after struggling with foul trouble throughout the season. While the Hoosiers were able to leave Illinois with a win, it is a game that still leaves some questions moving forward. Problems such as turnovers and 3-point shooting that have plagued the Hoosiers for most of the season remained a problem Thursday. Indiana turned the ball over 17 times and each player that stepped foot on the court tonight committed at least one turnover. Indiana continued to lower its 3-point percentage on the season, shooting 2-for-16 from beyond the arc Thursday. Patberg hit the team’s only two 3-pointers of the night, and it was enough to overcome poor shooting nights from Jaelynn Penn and Grace Berger, who shot 2-for-11 and 4-for-12 from the field, respectively. These are issues that, at this point of the season, look like they will never be fixed, which is concerning for an Indiana team with high hopes for the month of March. But with the leadership and clutch shot-making ability of Patberg, the Hoosiers might be able to grind out close wins like this in the NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers will return to Bloomington and host Ohio State on Sunday for National Girl and Women in Sports Day. Ohio State has hovered around the middle of the Big Ten for most of the year with a 7-5 conference record and are currently listed as a 10 seed according to Charlie Creme’s women’s basketball bracketology. With just four games left in Big Ten play, it is unlikely that the Hoosiers can catch Iowa and Maryland, who are both two games above Indiana in the Big Ten rankings. Missing out on the regular season Big Ten title isn’t the end of the world for the Hoosiers. Next up, a chance to build some momentum with four winnable games to close the season.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Jeff Mercer in 2019, the Indiana baseball team won the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time since 2014. But with success comes turnover, as 10 Hoosiers were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft. Mercer admits he questions where certain production will come from each year, especially when you lose 10 players to the MLB, but his reliance on player development answers these questions. “You go to work every day and coach your players all the time like they are going to be the starter,” Mercer said. “Because someone will grow and someone will develop and someone will blossom before your eyes and that’s what you rely on. If your process is player development, then you have to rely on the process and that’s what we have always done.” The Hoosiers will begin the season Feb. 14, but before breaking down any game action, let’s preview the 2020 Indiana pitching staff. Starting pitching was one of the biggest strengths of the 2019 Hoosiers, but also one of the areas with the biggest turnover. Weekend starters Pauly Milto, Tanner Gordon and Andrew Saalfrank were each selected in the MLB Draft after composing one of the best starting pitching staffs in the Big Ten. Saalfrank was named the 2019 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year despite earning the Sunday job a month into the season and making four fewer starts than Milto and Gordon. Indiana may not have a weekend rotation written in stone until conference play starts, but Mercer does not lack options to fill these roles. The first name that pops up as an obvious candidate for the Friday starter job is Tommy Sommer, a 6-foot-4 junior left-handed pitcher from Carmel, Indiana. Sommer dealt with a meniscus injury towards the beginning of last season, but still managed to post a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings pitched. Sommer was in the mix for the Sunday starter job, but found his groove starting midweek games and appearing out of the bullpen throughout the weekend, posting an impressive 1.11 WHIP and a strikeout per nine innings-rate just above nine. Sommer, along with sophomores Gabe Bierman, Alex Franklin and McCade Brown, are the only returning Hoosiers with experience starting games for the Hoosiers. In addition, each of these pitchers started five games or fewer last season. Because of this, new faces toeing the rubber in the first inning will be quite common at the start of the year. Mercer also mentioned sophomore Braydon Tucker, who posted a 1.94 WHIP in 6.2 innings pitched last season, as a candidate to pitch more innings this season. Freshmen Nate Stahl and David Platt, along with sophomore Matt Litwicki, have taken a step forward since the fall as well, according to Mercer. Litwicki gave up seven runs in 9.1 innings pitched last season, but will be relied upon more heavily this year. Stahl impressed throughout his time at Walsh Jesuit High School, boasting a 92 MPH fastball and 6-foot-4 frame. Platt, a graduate from Palisades High School, stands at 6-foot-3 and has a fastball that tops out at 93 MPH. "The thing with our staff right now is it’s young, but it has really good stuff," Mercer said. "It’s all 90-94 with good sink and good action." Another big question mark for the pitching staff is who will fill in the back end of the bullpen. Matt Lloyd was a steady presence as the team’s closer last season with a 2.70 ERA in 14 appearances, but was drafted in the 15th round by the Cincinnati Reds. Redshirt junior Connor Manous was one of Indiana’s best weapons out of the bullpen last season, posting a 2.68 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 43.2 innings last year. Manous’ experience as a late-inning guy last season makes him a great candidate to step into the closing role this year. But even with so much roster turnover among the pitching staff, Mercer will not be using this as an excuse. “No one is going to put an asterisk next to the game and say, ‘Well you played a bunch of freshmen and sophomores,’” Mercer said. “No one is going to say, ‘Well you guys don’t have the experience so we will spot you three runs.’ It doesn’t work like that.” The Hoosiers begin the season with a weekend series versus one of the top college baseball programs in the country in LSU. It will be a quick start, but Mercer hopes last year’s culture of winning will help the younger players adjust quickly. “We have to be ready to go from the beginning,” Mercer said. “That’s where your environment [and] experience of winning and expecting to be successful carries you forward.”
Nebraska’s Nicea Eliely drove the lane with 19 seconds left, down two. Once down 20 after the first quarter and 25 at one point in the second, the Cornhuskers were about to complete the comeback. But, as Indiana fans have seen so often this year, Brenna Wise rotated over to take a charge that kept Indiana ahead for good. “That is not uncommon for [Wise],” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said. “She makes timely plays, but is always willing to get in there and give up her body. She is selfless and all about her team. I wasn’t surprised she was the one that rotated over and took that.” The No. 18 Hoosiers cruised into halftime with a 17-point lead thanks to a quick 12-0 start to the game. The Hoosiers only scored 31 points in the final three quarters of the game, but luckily for Indiana, it built a big enough lead to withstand a fierce Cornhusker comeback and hang on to win, 57-53. “We knew that in spite of us having a great first quarter that they were not going to go away quietly,” Moren said. “That’s a really good basketball team. On a day that we didn’t shoot it very well, we made just enough plays to get out of here with a win today.” The way Indiana came out and dominated the first quarter looked like the Indiana team that was running opponents out of the gym at the start of Big Ten play. Just four first-half turnovers and a hot start from beyond the arc in the first 12 minutes made it seem like the Hoosiers were past problems that have plagued them recently. They weren't. By the start of the second half, it was clear that missed 3-point shots, turnovers and interior defense were just caught in some traffic on the nearly 10-hour trip from Bloomington to Lincoln. The Hoosiers committed three turnovers in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. Nebraska’s center Kate Cain had her way in the second half, leading Nebraska with 12 points, five blocks and four rebounds. Cain largely neutralized the Indiana forwards, as Aleksa Gulbe and Mackenzie Holmes finished with just seven points each and dealt with foul trouble. “We didn’t have some answers in the third and fourth with their post play,” Moren said. “I thought they got the ball inside way too easily, which means our ball pressure wasn’t what it needed to be.” Indiana also continued to struggle from beyond the arc, shooting 4-for-15. All four made 3-pointers came in the first half, which forced them to rely on its defense to make big plays down the stretch. The Hoosiers’ defensive versatility was especially important when Wise took the charge, as Moren explained postgame that Indiana switched all ball screens one through five. Nevertheless, any win in the Big Ten, especially on the road is big, according to Moren. That’s exactly how Indiana should remember this game. Aside from the first quarter that looked like the November Hoosiers, this is a game that Indiana will take the win, but quickly move on from. No single Hoosier stood out, but it was a collective effort to pull out this road win. Jaelynn Penn led the way with 14 points and Ali Patberg and Brenna Wise each had 10. It was an odd game for Grace Berger who only shot 3-for-13 from the field, but grabbed 15 rebounds, a season high. This win should remind fans that while a regular season Big Ten title and top-four seed in the NCAA tournament might be out of reach after losing to Maryland on Feb. 6, this Indiana team is not finished. The Hoosiers have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, which only includes teams outside of the top-five of the Big Ten rankings. While it will have to play on the road for four of its last six games, Indiana hasn’t seemed too fazed, holding a 6-2 record away from Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers will continue their road trip on Feb. 13 when they take on Illinois, who has struggled mightily with a 1-10 record in the Big Ten. While wins in the Big Ten won’t get Indiana back in the conference title race, Moren and the Hoosiers know there is something bigger to play for down the road. The bottom line is we know this team will be playing in March. Sometimes the most dangerous teams in the NCAA tournament are those playing with the most momentum, and that is exactly how Indiana should treat the last six games of conference play.
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."