The first two games of the season were something of a sensational period for IU women’s basketball. In easy wins over Vermont and UMass Lowell, the Hoosiers, who added four freshmen and three transfers this offseason, had their first chance to build chemistry in an uncontrolled environment. Coach Teri Moren was able to play against different formations to get an idea of what might work later in the season when the tests are tougher than a pair of major opponents at home.
IU was preparing for games like Monday, on the road against No. 4 Tennessee, his first major measuring stick of the season and a chance to gain a better grasp of what the Hoosiers are capable of.
“We’re going to be tested in all kinds of ways, from toughness, gritty on the boards, to how well we can perform in the half court against a top defensive team like Tennessee,” Moren said. “It’s a big challenge for us, a big early challenge for us. I think that will give us a kind of barometer of some of the things that we have put in place.
For a top-15 preseason team in the nation, IU still has a host of question marks. Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, Aleksa Gulbe and Ali Patberg all left the Sweet 16 team last season. Freshman Yarden Garzon and Minnesota transfer Sara Scalia are in the starting lineup along with Grace Berger, Mackenzie Holmes and Chloe Moore-McNeil. Another transfer, Sydney Parrish, is the first on the bench.
After:New IU look dominates UMass Lowell and continues to build chemistry
After:Teri Moren has built something special. But she’s not done yet.
The result is an undeniably talented roster, with a balance of youth and experience, that hasn’t quite gelled yet. The first two games were good for building chemistry, but now the gradual process has no choice but to continue as competition increases.
Whether IU wins or loses will be by their own methods. Ohio State handed Tennessee their first loss of the season on Tuesday by forcing turnovers with their all-court press. Indiana does not press regularly and does not plan to do so in Knoxville. One of the greatest strengths of volunteers is to bounce back; 6-6 center Tamari Key averaged eight per game last year. Moren liked what she saw of the Hoosiers’ four-guard starting lineup. That won’t change either.
If IU wants to make a deep tournament, it’s going to have to be on their own merits and because they’re a good enough team to do it. There are different adjustments and priorities against each team – against Tennessee, the Hoosiers are focused on crushing the boards and preventing fast breaks – but Indiana has ambitions that go beyond a single game in november.
He wants to play his own game, and Monday will be the first opportunity for him to learn if this game is enough to win under conditions as difficult as those in college basketball: against a ranked opponent in enemy territory.
“There will be very few – I think there will be – Indiana fans, but the majority of them, as we know, will be filled with orange and white playing Rocky Top all the way through. 40 minutes,” Moren said. “That’s all I think we need right now: early testing in a rowdy environment like they’re going to provide it to us.”