At one point during this season, the IU women’s basketball team’s record stood at 8-12. Despite having two of the program’s greatest players to ever step on to the court in seniors Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill, the Hoosiers struggled to find any answers for success early in the season. Their young freshmen guards had problems adjusting to the college game and a lack of depth off the bench left Coach Teri Moren and her squad without very many other options.
Now, less than three months later, they find themselves in a championship.
IU’s 71-58 victory over TCU on Wednesday advanced them to the final game of the women’s NIT. It was just the most recent triumph in the five-game win streak throughout the tournament that has seen the Hoosiers easily take care of UT-Martin, Milwaukee, Purdue and UC Davis.
With the clock ticking down on Buss' and Cahill’s careers at IU, one last game stands in the way of them ending their senior seasons with a win and raising a banner in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
However, before the Hoosiers can look that far ahead, one opponent still remains. IU will take on the Virginia Tech Hokies in the championship on Saturday in Bloomington at 3 p.m.
The Hokies, who are coming off WNIT wins over Navy, George Mason, Fordham, Alabama and West Virginia, will present a challenge that IU has not seen the likes of this season.
With no true post presence down low, the Hokies will look to attack from the outside as they like to spread all five players out around the perimeter on offense. Virginia Tech’s mix of guards who can attack the rim or knock down shots from behind the three-point arc, along with their taller forwards who can handle the ball with ease will present a strange matchup for the Hoosiers.
However, IU will look to stick to the defensive principles that has helped them be successful throughout the tournament. Switching around the perimeter and being prepared to guard any of Virginia Tech’s players will be important for IU.
“When we switch, it gives us a little bit of an advantage if both players can equally guard their player,” Cahill said. “It helps us because we don’t have to worry about going under or over the screen, which sometimes gives the advantage to the offensive player.”
Taylor Emery can score in a variety of ways.
The Hokies are led in scoring by junior guard Taylor Emery, who comes into the championship averaging 18.4 points and shooting 49 percent from the field. Moren said Emery, a former National Junior College Player of the Year at Gulf Coast State College, can score many different ways but is most dangerous when she pulls up to shoot from mid-range.
“I think she has potential to be a pro,” Moren said. “She probably has one of the purest mid-range games that I’ve watched. She’s just really special inside the arc with that pull-up.”
Moren said freshman guard Bendu Yeaney will start with the defensive assignment on Emery. However, with all the switching the Hoosiers might do, Buss and freshman guard Jaelynn Penn will have to be prepared to take the defensive responsibilities for long stretches as well.
No true post presence
IU’s defense against dominant post players has been up and down all season but in the WNIT it has been flawless.
The Hoosiers held Purdue’s Ae’Rianna Harris to two points on 1-11 shooting, UC Davis’ Morgan Bertsch to 13 points on 5-13 shooting and TCU’s Jordan Moore to six points on 3-12 shooting.
However, Virginia Tech won’t attack down low nearly as much as IU’s recent opponents. 6-foot-3 Swedish junior forward Regan Magarity, the Hokies’ closest thing to a post player, is just as much of a guard as the rest of the team.
Moren said Cahill will be a good defensive matchup on Magarity, who averages 13.4 points and 9.5 rebounds, but her ability to step out will be a challenge for her team’s post defenders like junior forward Kym Royster and freshman center Linsey Marchese.
“She’s basically a big guard even though she’s 6-foot-3. She can handle it and put it on the deck,” Moren said. “She can present some problems for us because she can stretch you out. Kym and Linsey aren’t used to being out of their comfort zone and have to guard on the perimeter.”
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