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Women's basketball looks to remain undefeated at Puerto Rico Classic



yeaney-layup

Sophomore guard Bendu Yeaney goes up for a layup against Missouri State on Dec. 9 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.  Alexis Oser Buy Photos

IU women’s basketball has the 15th highest RPI in women's college basketball — good for the best in the Big Ten. That schedule isn’t getting any easier this week. 

The Hoosiers traveled more than 1,800 miles from Bloomington to Puerto Rico as they prepare for three games in as many days.

Sophomore guard Bendu Yeaney said it will be nice to get to some warm weather after enduring the cold, rainy temperatures IU had through finals week. The first thing on the team’s itinerary is to go paddle boarding, but these are just slivers of what IU really wants to enjoy.

“This is a business trip,” Yeaney said. 

Loyola Marymount University, Grambling State University and the University of South Dakota stand between the Hoosiers and a perfect 12-0 record. 

Loyola Marymount will be IU’s first opponent at 4 p.m. on Dec. 19. The Lions come in with only two blemishes on their record at 7-2 with losses to Northern Arizona University and Denver University. They are led by senior guard Gabby Green, who is averaging 21 points per game this season. Green, along with sophomore guard Chelsea Gipson, who is averaging 15 points per game, will be IU’s biggest challenge to stop in the backcourt. Expect Yeaney and sophomore guard Jaelynn Penn to be tasked with those two defensively.

Sophomore Jaelynn Penn and senior Kym Royster box out freshman Christina Britter on Nov. 25 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. IU beat Northern Illinois University, 91-73. Claire Livingston Buy Photos

This will be just the second meeting between IU and Loyola Marymount with the first in 1996 when IU took the 82-65 victory in Bloomington. 

Less than 24 hours later IU will take on Grambling State for the first time ever at 1:30 p.m. On paper, this is the easiest game of the trio as the Tigers are just 1-7 this season. Only one loss has been under double digits as the team is being outscored by an average of 24 points per loss. Senior guards Shakyla Hill and Jazmin Boyd are the only two players averaging more than ten points per game while IU has four players doing so.

Dec. 21 brings the stiffest competition of the Puerto Rico Classic by way of South Dakota. The Coyotes enter this week's tournament with a 10-1 record, including wins over then-No. 23 Iowa State University, 64-59, and then-No. 22 University of Missouri, 74-61. 

South Dakota brings a balanced scoring attack as all five starters average eight points or more. Junior guard Ciara Duffy was named Summit League Player of the Week after her 20-point performance against Missouri that saw her add four rebounds and three assists with zero turnovers in 37 minutes of play.

In this week’s Associated Press poll, IU received 11 votes to be ranked in the top-25 while South Dakota received 22. 

Unlike last year, IU Coach Teri Moren has the luxury of depth in 2018, which bodes well for consecutive games like this. Freshman forward Aleksa Gulbe is expected to be back after missing the last two games due to a rolled ankle. Freshman guard Grace Berger, sophomore guard Keyanna Warthen and sophomore forward Linsey Marchese will also be called upon to relieve IU’s starters for the looming 120 minutes of basketball. 

“We feel like we can go deep into our bench,” Moren said. “There’s no question that we are going to have to do that because we have three really good opponents.”

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