In the IU women’s basketball team’s 77-62 loss to Ohio State at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Saturday, freshman guard Jaelynn Penn stepped up in a big way.
Penn finished the game with a team-high 20 points to go along with nine rebounds and provided IU with solid defense throughout. Despite her eight turnovers, it was one of her most productive performances of the season.
“I just kept looking for good looks and making the right decisions,” Penn said. “Obviously, I turned the ball over a lot and that hurt us.”
Penn’s performance provided a much-needed boost for the Hoosiers. They were able to hang around within striking distance of the tenth-ranked Buckeyes for most of the contest despite a quiet game from their leading scorer in senior guard Tyra Buss.
Buss was hounded defensively by Ohio State guards Linnae Harper and Asia Doss, who held her to just 10 points on the day. She struggled from the field, shooting just 4-14 overall and 2-8 from three-point range.
However, IU Coach Teri Moren said Penn’s big game was not enough.
Although the freshman’s performance was impressive, it was yet another game of inconsistency from the Hoosiers as a whole.
Moren said she is still waiting for another game in which all of her players step up and play well at the same time.
“I just wish we could consistently have better scoring from all our positions,” Moren said.
IU managed to do that in their only Big Ten win of the season on Jan. 6. The Hoosiers defeated Purdue at home 72-54 and got important contributions from all their starters.
While Buss and fellow senior forward Amanda Cahill have remained fairly consistent scoring options, the Hoosiers have hit a stretch in which some of their players will have breakout performances one game and disappear in the next.
It started with their first loss to Ohio State on December 31 in Columbus, Ohio, where junior forward Kym Royster had a career day, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
On Saturday, she was held to just eight points and struggled guarding 6-foot-3 senior Stephanie Mavunga, who ended up with 20 points and 18 rebounds.
Then, in their loss to No. 23 Michigan in Ann Arbor on Jan. 10, freshman guard Bendu Yeaney came up with a career-high 18 points. In this game, Yeaney scored seven points and shot just 3-11 from the field.
Moren said she attributes some of the inconsistency to her team’s youth and continuing struggles with depth.
“Bendu and Jaelynn should probably be playing 25 to 30 minutes but they are logging 38," Moren said. "They’re freshmen that get fatigued and when fatigue sets in, we turn it over and miss shots short."
Moren said Buss and Cahill have been through this so they are used to it, but when you have freshmen playing these minutes for the first time it's going to take time for them to adjust.
The Hoosiers have also opened up the season with the eighth-toughest schedule in the country.
Opening up conference play against some of the best teams in the Big Ten like Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State has also played a big factor in the rough stretch.
However, that road won’t get any easier for Moren and her squad as they prepare for a two-game road trip that will take them to No. 11-ranked Maryland and another match-up with Michigan State.
“We’re dying for the end of January or February where we can finally get a four-day stretch where we can get some rest,” Moren said. "We just have to keep chipping away and believe we are getting better.”
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