BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — In just two days, Indiana women’s basketball has had three major wins.
The Hoosiers peaked at No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, seniors Mackenzie Holmes and Grace Berger landed on the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 watch list, and perhaps greatest of all, Indiana beat a Tennessee team by 79: 67 Monday night.
The Hoosiers ended last season with a Sweet 16 loss to one of their home state’s most successful women’s college basketball programs in UConn.
This game would be the last for seniors Ali Patberg, Nicole Cardaño-Hillary and Aleksa Gulbe, all of whom were ineligible to play or, in Gulbe’s case, wanted to return to Latvia and eventually play for an international team.
With all the success the trio brought to the program, it was uncertain how seven new Hoosier faces with four freshmen and three transfers would fit together with Holmes, Berger and some returning Hoosier veterans. So far the gelation looks good.
To open regular-season play, the 11th-ranked Hoosiers easily won against Vermont and UMass Lowell, giving Indiana’s head coach Teri Moren a chance to try different rotations.
That went well and gave time on the floor to all the Hoosiers, veterans and freshmen, but the real Test, Moren said, would come from preseason No. 5 Tennessee.
The crazy part was Monday afternoon’s game day, which saw Tennessee and Indiana ranked side-by-side in the AP poll, with Indiana ranking 12th and the Volunteers ranking 11th.
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It’s a great effort for the Hoosiers to take another top-15 finish, but Moren will tell you she doesn’t pay much attention to it.
After the Week 1 leaderboard was released, the tipoff for the top two teams began at 6 p.m., with the Hoosiers immediately following. Nine Indiana players got game time and offered 15 bank points, mostly from junior guard Sydney Parrish, who fielded 13.
Four other Hoosiers scored in double digits and helped pass the Volunteers 35-33, a key key for Moren in the game.
A win on an ESPN2 national stage against a team like Tennessee is certainly a great starting point for the Hoosiers into their new season.
Still a long way from dub, the program announced on Monday that Berger and Holmes had been named to the Wooden Awards Preseason’s Top 50 Watch List. The Wooden Award is perhaps the most prestigious award in college basketball, and the poll was chosen by national college basketball experts.
Both Holmes and Berger hit a double-double in the win over Tennessee, Holmes with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Berger with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
So far this season, Holmes leads the Hoosiers by averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting 72.4 percent from the field. Third in line behind guard Sara Scalia, Berger has 11 points per game and also leads the team in rebounds with 7.3.
Two other Hoosiers in guards Chloe Moore-McNeil and Parrish are also averaging in double figures, with Yarden Garzon not too far behind at nine points per game.
More than ever, Moren has emphasized how badly she wants a banner. Could it be?
Related stories about Indiana women’s basketball
- INDIANA SCRATCHES BUCKET LIST ENTRY IN TENNESSEE: Indiana sent a loud message to the college basketball world Monday night when it took to the streets and dismantled a fine Tennessee team with Final Four ambitions. The Hoosiers are really good and Monday’s win was a huge statement. CLICK HERE
- GAME STORY: In one of the most hostile environments in women’s collegiate basketball, No. 12 Indiana played No. 11 Tennessee on Monday night in a huge 79-67 win over the Volunteers. The Hoosiers had five players with 13 points or more, won the rebound fight and held a whopping 21-2 lead in fast break points. CLICK HERE