She was due.
Indiana women’s basketball senior guard No. 6 Sara Scalia suffered a brutal shooting spree that left her without breaking double digits for a month. However, against Michigan No. 13 on Monday night, Scalia played with the confidence head coach Teri Moren was looking for.
The result? A 92-83 win on the road that never looked particularly close.
Indiana’s shot — especially from beyond the arc — was the team’s story early in the season. In contrast to the bloody and isocentric style of play that had characterized Moren’s previous teams, Scalia’s additions, junior guard Sydney Parrish and freshman guard Yarden Garzon, brought more pace to the offense.
The trio of flamethrowers, along with another skilled marksman in Junior Guard Chloe Moore-McNeil, smashed opponents early in the season with a blitz of 3-point connections. Guarding the Hoosiers was a 40-minute nightmare that poor mid-major teams were ruthlessly exposed to.
It’s gotten a little more turbulent since then. Over a three-game span from December 29 to January 8, the Hoosiers failed to shoot more than 25% from deep. If you can believe it, the shootings were even uglier than the numbers suggest. Frighteningly, only one of those games resulted in a loss, which is Indiana’s only loss this season.
The ability to win despite sub-par shooting was impressive. What was evident against the Wolverines, however, was how downright absurd they are when the shots are constant. We’ve seen it sparingly this season.
Parrish’s 3-point prowess propelled the Hoosiers to a resounding win over the University of North Carolina in early December, and more recently a 40 percent team effort from distance helped then-No. 9 Maryland 68-61.
Scalia led the 3-point barrage on Monday. Her 19 points was the highest of her Hoosier career and it really couldn’t have come at a better time. Her struggles weren’t compounded by the team’s success, but it was clear she wasn’t herself.
Aggressive hits to the basket and patented downtown jumpers seemed to ease the frustration felt in previous stretches. Aside from Scalia, five other Hoosiers finished in double figures.
The variety of attack is something that can lead this team to wins that matter a lot more than one on a cold Monday night in Ann Arbor in January. Graduate guard Grace Berger has certainly erased any doubts about her health after a strong 10-point, 6-rebound outing that saw her fully take over a handful of possessions.
Turnaround jumper? Cut through the defense’s belly? Slick crossovers into nifty dishes for their teammates? You name it, Berger did it.
Berger’s running mate, senior forward Mackenzie Holmes, drove to another 20-point double-double – a practically playful event for the Star Center. For only the third time this season, Indiana gave up at least 80 points. But it didn’t matter.
In a game where both teams put on scorching runs, the Hoosiers were hot. Put simply, they were better.
Losing the battle for points in the paint was also irrelevant. When Indiana clicks offensively, there are few teams in the country that can stop them. Even the Wolverines, the Big Ten’s second-ranked defense, couldn’t keep the Hoosiers’ scorers at bay.
Given Michigan’s reputation as a strong defensive team, Indiana put on perhaps their best and most complete offensive performance of the season. While defense was lacking at times — two Wolverines finished with at least 20 points — the buckets had to be earned. Nothing was given.
The Hoosiers’ 18-1 start is the best in program history and takes the team’s honors from 1971-72. If you have some time, I highly recommend going through this schedule. I can hardly understand the hysteria and chaos that Hanover College experienced after the Hoosiers rushed in to stun the Panthers 36-29.
Indiana certainly has come a long way from losses to Immaculata University. Well, it feels like I’ve typed that half a dozen times this season, but Moren and co. turn to what may be the biggest challenge of the season so far.
Ohio State No. 2, looking to bounce back from a loss to No. 10 Iowa, is a formidable opponent. If Indiana’s shot goes off, however, watch out.