One of the biggest themes for IU women’s basketball last season was its lack of depth.
Four of IU’s five starters averaged 34 minutes or more throughout a 40-minute game. The lowest minutes averaged by a starter was 28.2, which is still more than half the game.
Of the 7,550 minutes played in total last season, the Hoosiers’ five starters played 6,472, which is 86 percent of the time.
Credit to Coach Teri Moren and her staff because despite the tough task, the team managed to succeed as it went on to win the WNIT Championship.
However, there were moments where the lack of depth came back to bite the Hoosiers.
Last year, in the Big Ten Tournament, IU faced Michigan State in the first round and the two teams went to four overtimes before IU took the 111-109 victory. Of the 300 minutes played in that game, IU’s starters played 278 of those minutes.
Despite prevailing in that game, IU had to turn around the next day and play No. 2-seeded Maryland. The Hoosiers were even with Terrapins up until midway through the third quarter, when the night before seemed to catch up to the team, and Maryland won by 13. There’s no telling now, but if IU were to have won that game, it’s possible it could have been on the right side of the selection committee for the NCAA Tournament.
This season, depth seems to be less of a concern for Moren and her staff.
Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill are no longer on the team after graduating, but the Hoosiers added three talented freshmen, growth from their returning players and two transfers who are chomping at the bit to finally get on the court.
The three freshmen are Chanel Wilson, Aleksa Gulbe and Grace Berger. Wilson and Berger are both guards with impressive high school resumes. Both players will look to help sophomores Jaelynn Penn and Bendu Yeaney fill the point guard role that is now vacant after Buss graduated.
Gulbe is a 6-foot-3-inch forward from Latvia — the third player from Latvia in IU women’s basketball history — and is an athletic forward who can stretch the perimeter. She led the Under-19 Latvian League to a championship where she was named MVP after scoring 32 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the championship game. IU’s post presence wasn’t the strongest last year, but Gulbe can help change that this season.
Without knowing how the freshmen will turn out, the starting five could be Penn and Yeaney; juniors Ali Patberg and Brenna Wise; and senior Kym Royster.
Yeaney, Penn and Royster have the most experience within Moren’s offense as they were the three other starters with Buss and Cahill. Sophomores Linsey Marchese and Keyanna Warthen were the two that saw the most bench minutes last year, and although they were in short stints, this season they could see larger roles off the bench.
Sophomore forward Alexis Johnson and senior guard Grace Withrow didn’t see much playing time last year, but a summer of developing could turn that around for the two.
Patberg and Wise, both transfers who had to sit idly by last year, are ready to finally take off the practice jersey and put on the cream and crimson uniforms. Patberg is a guard and will likely be the first to get a shot at filling Buss’ roll in running the offense.
Although she might not have the explosive scoring ability, she has smooth shot from the outside and the patience to set up plays.
Wise is probably the replacement for Cahill. She has athleticism to play inside and out, and the strength to be a force down low. She won the three-point contest with Juwan Morgan at Hoosier Hysteria, so it shows she can also knock it down from long range.
No matter how Moren decides to distribute her minutes this season, she has more depth with this year’s team, which will be beneficial during the five-month season.