The fans at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for IU's exhibition matchup with Gannon University might have been a little confused.
By watching the manner in which IU senior guard Tyra Buss hounded Gannon sophomore point guard Julia Braungart, one might have thought Buss was playing with the intensity of a late-season Big Ten matchup.
Instead, it was just an early-season exhibition game against a Division II opponent.
The intensity is just what Buss approaches each game with, and she and Coach Teri Moren hope her teammates follow suit.
They did so Monday night as the Hoosiers’ stingy defense forced 26 Gannon turnovers in IU's 82-38 victory to round out preseason play for this season.
“I think the coaches were pretty proud of the way we played defensively,” Buss said. “We had some mistakes early on, but we fixed that during halftime. I think as far as our energy level goes, I think we came out very high-intensity.”
The Hoosiers got things going early as they got out to a 12-0 lead from which Gannon struggled to recover.
IU got layup after layup as Gannon coughed the ball up multiple times in the first quarter. It allowed the Hoosiers to push the ball up the court like they wanted to, playing fast and having athletic freshman wings Jaelynn Penn and Bendu Yeaney fill the passing lanes for Buss to find them in transition.
However, the Golden Knights managed to slow down the Hoosiers enough to trim the lead to 18-8 at the end of the opening quarter.
That led to the second quarter, where any momentum IU had gained faltered as Gannon managed to force many of IU’s inexperienced freshman guards into questionable decisions.
It resulted in a stretch in which the Hoosiers committed five turnovers in the matter of about nine minutes.
“It was the freshmen’s first game out in front of the fans, and it takes a little bit to get those nerves out,” Buss said. “It is a little nerve-racking, so the first half went by a little fast and we weren’t taking care of the ball as much.”
Buss knocked down two big three-pointers in the quarter to help IU outscore Gannon by one in the period and take a 35-22 lead into halftime.
However, the turnover problems were evident as the Hoosiers went into the locker room with 11 in the first half. Their defensive tenacity kept them afloat as they forced Gannon into 13 first-half turnovers of their own.
“The turnovers came from having a lot of young kids on the floor,” Moren said. “I think we just had a few mishaps of not being strong with the ball, and I think a few of them forgot this isn’t high school, this is Indiana.”
At the beginning of the third quarter, it looked like it was going to be more of the same for IU as senior forward Amanda Cahill’s pass on the first play couldn’t find a recipient and sailed out of bounds into the Hoosiers’ bench.
However, as was the case with most of the night, Buss and the aggressive defensive play of fellow guards like Penn and Yeaney bailed IU out of any turnover issues they might have had.
Buss quickly turned around on the next play after the Cahill turnover and got her third steal of the game and found junior Kym Royster in the paint, who finished with an impressive post move.
IU didn’t hold back from there, as they had only one more turnover for rest of the quarter, outscoring Gannon 26-5 and taking a 61-27 lead heading into the fourth.
“I think we just settled in,” Moren said. “After halftime, I think we started making easier plays and started taking better care of the ball.”
Buss finally got to take a break from her impressive outing in the final quarter. The freshmen and reserves led the rest of the way for the Hoosiers’ victory.
Buss was the focal point for everything the Hoosiers’ did in the contest as she finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven steals on the night while Penn contributed 12 points and seven rebounds of her own and Royster and freshman Keyanna Warthen each had 12 points each as well.
It was all part of a performance in which the Hoosiers dominated the second half, but one in which Moren said she saw plenty of room for improvement heading forward, including the fact that her young team still needs to get used to playing at the collegiate level.
“We still need to get used to having fans in the stands and get used to the noise so we are able to communicate,” Moren said. “When you’re switching in man to man defense and don’t communicate you can get into some trouble. I’m going to have to make sure we get that right in practice.”
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