The IU women’s basketball team’s young roster is starting to get used to the physicality of college basketball.
In their last two games, the Hoosiers have played against their two most physical opponents of the year so far.
On Thursday, they fell to the fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals in Bloomington, 72-59. It was Louisville’s suffocating full-court pressure on IU’s ball handlers, and Louisville's brute strength in the post, that spurred the Cardinals to a victory.
Even with IU's talented veterans down low in senior forward Amanda Cahill and junior forward Kym Royster, IU was still outscored in the paint 54-30.
Louisville’s defensive intensity made turnovers a concern once again for IU as the Hoosiers committed 13 in the first half. However, senior Tyra Buss and the rest of IU's guards adjusted well to the pressure and cut that mark down to three in the second half.
In their previous game before that, the Hoosiers lost to Saint Mary’s 88-82 in their second game of the Hilton Concord Classic in Moraga, California. It was a game which IU Coach Teri Moren said helped prepare the teams for Louisville and the talented teams remaining on the Hoosiers’ schedule.
“Saint Mary’s was a great preparation for Louisville,” Moren said. “They were super physical with us so we were used to that after coming back from California.”
Now, the Auburn Tigers come to Bloomington on Sunday at 2 p.m. boasting a similar resume to that of IU. Both teams are 4-3 on the year and lost a game to Chattanooga.
Auburn also brings a similar three-guard starting lineup to IU, led by its leading scorer, junior guard Janiah McKay.
One aspect the Tigers might have an advantage in is their depth as they have a lot of scoring threats off the bench. Their second leading scorer, sophomore guard Daisa Alexander, hasn’t started a game this year and fills the sixth-man role.
A lack of depth proved to hurt IU in its loss to Louisville. While the Cardinals were able to sub four players at a time, the Hoosiers were forced to play their starters for almost the entire game. Freshman guard Keyanna Warthen saw the most time off the bench for IU with only eight minutes.
After losing their last two games, Sunday’s game could almost be considered a must-win for the Hoosiers.
However, Moren said she is confident in her players. She said she’s been impressed with her team’s preparation and effort of late, which was a concern earlier in the season after their loss to Chattanooga at home on Nov. 20.
“Every game is a learning opportunity,” Moren said. “There’s always going to be lessons you are going to learn and we’ll be better because of it.”
One of the main positives IU can take into the contest with Auburn is the improved play of freshman guard Jaelynn Penn after she struggled with her shot early in the season.
In the past two games, Penn’s athleticism has transferred over against better competition.
Against Saint Mary’s, she nailed four three-pointers on her way to a season-high 21 points to go along with nine rebounds.
In the Louisville game, she stepped up in the second half as IU’s most productive offensive weapon. While Buss was being swarmed by Louisville’s tenacious guards, Penn led the Hoosiers in scoring with 17 points and hit three more threes.
“I’ve played in big games my whole life,” Penn said after the Louisville game. “It’s just another game.”
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