Indiana Daily Student

Bendu Yeaney returns home for NCAA Tournament

<p>Sophomore guard Bendu Yeaney attempts a free throw March 7 during IU&#x27;s second round Big Ten Tournament game against Minnesota in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. IU defeated Minnesota, 66-58.</p>

Sophomore guard Bendu Yeaney attempts a free throw March 7 during IU's second round Big Ten Tournament game against Minnesota in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. IU defeated Minnesota, 66-58.

Bendu Yeaney rode a Bird scooter during her 2018 Hoosier Hysteria introduction as Drake’s verse in “Sicko Mode” played in the background. 

She pulled out the bow-and-arrow celebration after hitting a 3-pointer against Rutgers on Feb. 18. 

The sophomore guard shouted, “Ice in the veins, you feel me?"while in the tunnel of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall following her game-winning shot against then-No. 10 Iowa. 

Yeaney has always appeared to be comfortable since joining IU women’s basketball, but Friday she gets to truly be in her element. For the first time in her collegiate career, she will be returning back to her home state of Oregon to play as a Hoosier in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun being able to be back at my roots,” Yeaney said. “And to be able to play at the places I used to play in high school.”

Yeaney tweeted about missing her people back home on March 16. Two days later she was waiting to get food when the tournament was leaked early, nd she got the news that IU would be playing against the University of Texas in Eugene, Oregon.

With a constant smile on her face and a gold chain reading “Benny” around her neck, Yeaney showed off her excitement during the team’s press conference following the bracket reveal and in a video blog she made during the team’s flight to Oregon.

“I was like, ‘Let me let the TV say it first,’” Yeaney said. “When I actually heard, it was a dream come true.”

Yeaney said she will have around 60 people coming out to watch IU play.

Moren said her goal is to get each player to play near her hometown at least once before her career is over at IU, and this time she didn’t have to take part in the scheduling process to make it happen. 

“She’s been after us – ‘When are we going back,’” Moren said. “As excited we are about this opportunity and being in the NCAA Tournament, she’s probably extra, extra, extra excited just because she’s not only in the NCAA Tournament, she’s going home.”

However, Yeaney’s roots stretch much farther than the Pacific Northwest. Her parents, Joseph and Maima Yeaney, came to the United States from Liberia.

Despite usually playing hundreds of miles away from her parents, Yeaney continues to recognize them for what they did to get her to this point.

“It was tough for them to get here, but they got here,” Bendu said in an IU Athletics video celebrating Black History Month. “They did everything they could possible for me to get to the point I am right now.”

Yeaney’s role in IU’s starting lineup comes from priding herself on the defensive end. She is consistently given the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best guard.

After she was not named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team, something both she and Moren felt was wrong, Yeaney made a statement in the next game.

In the second round of the conference tournament in Indianapolis on March 7, Yeaney held Minnesota guard Kenisha Bell — who was named to the First Team All-Big Ten — to 15 points on 5-for-23 shooting.

“I think you have to not poll the coaches, maybe you've got to poll the players,” Moren said after the win. “Poll Kenisha Bell and some of the other guards that she's had to guard throughout Big Ten play and realize that Bendu Yeaney is a terrific defender.”

The upcoming matchup for Yeaney will not be much easier. Texas has two guards in Sug Sutton and Danni Williams who average more than 11 points per game to go along with a matchup nightmare that is junior guard/forward Joyner Holmes.

Despite being a 6-foot-3-inch post presence, Holmes can also stretch the floor to hit a three or create off the dribble. Regardless of how Moren decides to match up, Yeaney's on- and off-ball defense will be key for IU to have a chance at a win.

“Joyner Holmes, I know is going to be a beast to have to deal with,” Moren said. “We’ve managed to put some interesting scouting reports together.”

In a season that started with Yeaney dancing while hopping off a Bird, it will end with a different type of dance. For the first time in her career, Yeaney will get a chance to show off at the Big Dance.

And despite being hours away from Assembly Hall, this homecoming will be in front of her biggest fans.

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