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Women's basketball Big Ten preview: part one


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By Joe Popely



The Hoosiers won only one game against Big Ten competition last season but will look to bounce back with first-year IU Coach Curt Miller.

This is the first of a three-part series to preview Indiana’s conference schedule, starting with its first four opponents. Part two will analyze the next four opponents, and part three the final three as well as a prediction of how IU will fare in the conference this season.

JAN. 3 AT MICHIGAN/JAN. 24 V. MICHIGAN

2011-12 Head-to-Head Results
Michigan 66, IU 48 (Jan. 22, Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Michigan 61, IU 48 (Feb. 19, Bloomington)
Last Year’s Record
20-12 (8-8 Big Ten), 7th in Big Ten

Biggest Strength
Defense. The Wolverines boasted the Big Ten’s best scoring defense a year ago, limiting opponents to a 58.9 points per game average. Michigan senior Rachel Sheffer must continue to be a rock underneath the basket for Big Blue after leading the team in points per game (12.8) and blocks (34) while grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game, which was second highest on the team a year ago. If Michigan senior Jenny Ryan can continue to set up her teammates — she posted a team-high 132 assists to just 53 turnovers — the offense might improve, as well.

Biggest Weakness

Inexperience could plague the Wolverines, who lost second-leading scorer Courtney Boylan (12.7 points per game, 47 percent field-goal shooting and 82 percent free throw shooting) and Carmen Reynolds (8.6 points per game, team-leading 35 percent on three-pointers and 82.5 percent on free throws) to graduation. The Wolverines will try do a better job of rebounding and scoring. They finished with a conference-worst -3.8 rebounding margin and ranked tenth in points per game with 63.4 last season.

JAN. 6 V. NORTHWESTERN (CONFERENCE HOME OPENER)/JAN. 28 AT NORTHWESTERN

2011-12 Head-to-Head Results
Northwestern 69, IU 61 (Jan. 8, Bloomington)
Northwestern 68, IU 61 (Jan. 29; Evanston, Ill.)
Last Year’s Record
14-16 (4-12 Big Ten), 11th in Big Ten

Biggest Strength
Sharing the ball. Northwestern worked hard to get good shots last year, ranking second in the league in assists per game with 16 without forcing passes. Their assist-to-turnover ratio was fourth in the conference. Northwestern sophomore Karly Roser looks to build upon a freshman season in which she averaged a team-high 4.79 assists per game. Roser will have the benefit of passing to familiar targets. Northwestern returns two of its three leading scorers in senior forward Kendall Hackney (a team-high 15.2 points per game) and senior forward Diamant Dannielle.

Biggest Weakness
Perimeter play. Only Indiana shot a worse percentage from beyond the arc last season than the Wildcats’ 30.2 To compound matters, Northwestern also struggled to defend outside shooters, allowing a league-worst 34.9 percent on opponents’ three-point attempts.

JAN. 10 V. NEBRASKA

2011-12 Head-to-Head Results
Nebraska 62, IU 48 (Jan. 5; Lincoln, Neb.)
Last Year’s Record
24-9 (10-6 Big Ten), 6th in Big Ten

Biggest Strength
Rebounding, defense and taking care of the basketball. The Huskers used solid fundamentals to finish with a 10-6 conference record in their first season in the Big Ten. Nebraska finished in the top half of the conference in turnovers a year ago, fourth in scoring defense (61.8) and turnover margin (+2.21), first in rebounds per game (42.3) and third in rebounding margin (+3.4). Leading the Huskers’ rebounding dominance was a pair of 6’2” forwards, then-sophomore Jordan Hooper, who grabbed a Big Ten-best 9.3 rebounds per game, and then-freshman Emily Cady, who was second on the team with 6.5 boards per game.

Biggest Weakness

Lack of scoring balance. The Huskers return their three leading scorers in Hooper (18.9 points per game), senior guard Lindsey Moore (15.7 points per game) and Cady (9.9 points per game), but no other returning player averaged more than five points per game. A major injury to one of those players could derail the Huskers’ offense and, perhaps, their season.


JAN. 17 AT OHIO STATE/FEB. 3 V. OHIO STATE


2011-12 Head-to-Head Results
Ohio State 73, IU 55 (Jan. 26, Bloomington)
Ohio State 75, IU 54 (Feb. 16; Columbus, Ohio)
Last Year’s Record
25-7 (11-5 Big Ten), 2nd in Big Ten

Biggest Strength
Experience, continuity and scoring. Ohio State returns four of its five starters from last year, three of which are upperclassmen. Perhaps none of the returning starters mean more to the Buckeyes’ success than senior guard Tayler Hill, who led the conference in scoring (20.4 points per game) last season, and junior center Ashley Adams, who used her 6-foot-5-inch frame to grab a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and block a league-high 96 shots. The Buckeyes finished second in the Big Ten in scoring (75.7 points per game) and three-point percentage (.359) and first in field goal percentage (.462) and blocks per game (5.7).

Biggest Weakness
Losing their top scorer. Ohio State must cope without the graduated Samantha Prahalis, a 5-foot-7-inch guard who finished just behind Hill for the Big Ten scoring title with 19.8 points per game. Prahalis also dished out a whopping 194 assists, a conference high. Hill and Prahalis were the only two Buckeyes to finish the season with double-digit scoring averages. Players like Adams (7.1 points per game last season), senior guard Amber Stokes (7.5 points per game) and sophomore forward Kalpana Beach (5.1 points per game) must step up in more pronounced roles in the offense to fill the void left by Prahalis’ departure.

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