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Indiana Daily Student

Hoosiers focus on defense heading into the season

Sophomore forward Lyndsay Leikem rebounds the ball during an exhibition game against the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 9, 2014.
Sophomore forward Lyndsay Leikem rebounds the ball during an exhibition game against the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 9, 2014.

As the Hoosiers prepare for their season-opening exhibition against Slippery Rock on Sunday, IU Coach Teri Moren is continuing to stress the importance of improvement on defense.

In last year’s campaign, the Hoosiers finished as the Big Ten’s worst rebounding team and allowed the eighth-most points among Big Ten teams. Moren, a defense-oriented head coach, said she hopes her team will improve upon those ranks in her second year at the helm.

“It’s a mindset that we’ve tried to instill on our players,” Moren said. “They’ve bought into that we have to be an incredible defensive team. We’re going to pride ourselves in being one of the toughest and best communicating teams in the Big Ten. We don’t have a problem with being physical.”

In 2014-15, IU allowed its opponents to score an average of 71.9 points per game in Big Ten play, which included five games of 80-plus points and Ohio State’s 103-point outburst against the Hoosiers.

The formula for trimming those statistics, Moren said, is on-ball defense and a change in tempo.

Based on the offseason, the Hoosiers are expected to play at a much faster tempo with sophomore scorer Tyra Buss moving to the point guard position after spending last year on the wing. The change in tempo has caused for an importance of on-ball defensive intensity.

In Big Ten play, IU ranked 10th in the conference in terms of steals last season.

“One of the things about Tyra Buss is that she wants to get it and go,” Moren said. “She wants to drive it as hard as she can or get it to her wings. We’re going to play faster, but the catch in that will be if we can play faster and still take care of the basketball.”

The on-ball defense will come down to the Hoosiers’ backcourt, highlighted by Buss. Moren is expected to rotate between 6-foot sophomore guard Jess Walter, 5-foot-10 junior guard Karlee McBride and 5-foot-11 junior guard Alexis Gassion.

With only 11 players on the active roster, all hands will be on deck.

“It’s coming along,” Moren said of the on-ball defensive improvements. “We are further ahead now than we were a year ago in terms of defense and how we value it. We’re never going to be completely satisfied, but we’ve gotten our kids to value that side of the ball more. Collectively, they’ve figured it out.”

Down low, senior forward Lyndsay Leikem, sophomore forward Amanda Cahill and junior forward Jenn Anderson will be counted on to help climb IU out of the Big Ten cellar in rebounding.

Cahill returns as the Hoosiers’ leading rebounder, as the 6-foot-2 forward collected 7.7 boards as a freshman.

“We’ve really been emphasizing our ball pressure and our different traps and defensive looks that will help us become more aggressive this year,” Cahill said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.”

Sunday will serve as the first opportunity to see how IU has adjusted in hopes of becoming one of the Big Ten’s best defensive teams. The Hoosiers play their first counted game on Nov. 13 against Tennessee State at Assembly Hall in part of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

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