Overall, Indiana women’s basketball’s non-conference schedule has few majorly challenging matchups. Coming into the season ranked No. 11, the expectation was that Indiana would be able to find success relatively easily in the early part of the season.
The most anticipated non-conference game for the Hoosiers would come against Tennessee. The Lady Vols entered the season ranked No. 4, coming off a Sweet Sixteen run, and were on the radar of everyone in women’s college basketball.
Monday night, Indiana became not just a blip on that radar. With a dominant 79-67 win in which they led for all but one and a half minutes, the Hoosiers proved on a national level why they are a top 15 team.
“I can’t even tell you how proud I am of our group tonight,” Teri Moren said postgame. “We knew it was going to be a tale of two really good teams going at it.”
Entering the evening, Indiana was ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press top 25 poll, just one below Tennessee at No. 11, who suffered an 87-75 loss to Ohio State in their season opener. The Lady Vols were the favorites, with the higher ranking and the home-crowd advantage.
But once the game began, Indiana took control and held the tempo and energy for most of the night. In all but the first few minutes of the first quarter, all cylinders were firing for the Hoosiers.
Indiana went on an 11-0 run in the first quarter and remained comfortable throughout the night, with Tennessee only coming within four points in the fourth quarter. The toughness and persistence of the Hoosiers outmatched that of the Lady Vols, largely thanks to the leadership of the team’s most senior players.
Mackenzie Holmes and Grace Berger finished with double-doubles, with 10 rebounds each and 16 and 13 points, respectively. Berger’s double-double marked the seventh of her career.
“There’s not a bigger competitor, not only on our team but in the country when it comes to women’s basketball,” Moren said.
Alongside Holmes and Berger, three other Hoosiers put double figures on the board: Sara Scalia, Sydney Parrish and Chloe Moore-McNeil.
“One thing I notice when I look at the stats sheet is how even-keeled our scoring is,” Holmes said. “We were sharing the ball, and we have a lot of unselfish girls on our team and that means a lot of people have the potential to score a lot of points in bunches.”
Moore McNeil, who now holds a consistent starting role, continued to show her improvement on both ends of the floor. Offensively, she totaled a career-high 15 points with a team-leading three 3-pointers. Her defensive efforts included three steals, two rebounds and one block, all coming at opportune times.
Parrish played for 27 minutes, essentially as a starter off the bench, something Moren has alluded to previously. She put up four rebounds and five assists, contributing to Indiana’s total of 35 rebounds and 21 assists.
“I thought Syd Parrish came in off the bench and really gave us a shot in the arm,” Moren said. “Just with her activity and her hustle.”
Defense was the deciding factor of Monday’s game. Offensive performances were relatively similar, with Indiana shooting 44 percent from the field to Tennessee’s 39 percent. Both teams had some hasty shots and miscues near the basket, and while the Hoosiers only out-rebounded the Lady Vols by two, other defensive efforts that don’t necessarily show up in the statistics set the Hoosiers up for success.
“We ultimately knew that the game was going to be won on the defensive end,” Moren said. “Our ability to make a lot of hustle plays tonight — things that don’t really show up in the stats sheet — I believe are why we won.”
With the victory, Indiana moves to 3-0 on the season, marking the sixth time in the last seven seasons the Hoosiers have started their season with three straight wins and the seventh time doing so under Moren.
The Hoosiers will look to extend their undefeated run on Thursday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall against Bowling Green State University.
(Photo credit: IU Athletics)