It’s not a fluke that IU women’s basketball has already played three of their first six games on the road and will have played five of their first eight away from home after next Tuesday.
This year’s team features a mix of young and old. Because of that, there has been a bit of a learning curve. It is very different to play in the friendly confines of Assembly Hall, where the Hoosiers haven’t lost in over a year, compared to a place like Auburn.
IU’s expectations were sky-high coming into the season for the first time in a long time. Now, they have to go out and prove themselves on the road early on in the season.
“We set it up intentionally like that,” IU Coach Teri Moren said. “We have to make it a difficult schedule, and our kids knew going into it that is was going to be a very difficult challenge but one that we were going to embrace.”
Although the loss to Auburn was tough for IU, it came during an adjustment period for underclassmen still learning what it takes to play away from home. Freshman forward Bre Wickware said it comes down to changing your focus.
The Hoosiers have lost their last two games on the road. They haven’t necessarily played their best basketball for 40 minutes in either of those two games, either. The upperclassmen have been through these games. The underclassmen haven’t.
“First it’s fun traveling with the team, but then they realize it’s a lot harder than playing at Assembly Hall with all of our fans, and you go to Auburn and we have one fan,” IU senior Karlee McBride said. “They bring the energy on the bench, and without them it would be kind of tough. They bring a lot to the team.”
Through the first few weeks of the season, one stat that has really jumped off the paper is free throw percentage. Through the first six games, IU is shooting just 64 percent as a team from the line. The Hoosiers are shooting close to 21 free throws per game, and the team knows they need to cash in from the charity stripe.
Is there a correlation between these road games and the free throw percentage? Moren isn’t buying it. McBride, senior guard Alexis Gassion and junior forward Amanda Cahill spent nearly 30 minutes in Tuesday’s practice just shooting free throws while the team worked on their zone defense.
Moren keeps stressing free throws according to McBride and Cahill. It’s now up to the players to capitalize on getting to the line and converting.
“As a team overall, we haven’t been shooting free throws at a very high clip,” Cahill said. “We’ve been working on that a lot and it improved last game, but we need to keep getting better because those are free points.”
The road games will continue this upcoming week with games at North Carolina State Thursday and North Texas Tuesday. The team is confident the free throws will improve. Whether those troubles will fix themselves on the road, we’ll just have to wait and see.
“Last year our free throws won us some of our games,” McBride said. “We have been missing lately, so it’s really important to get started now and not let that affect us in the long run.”