IU women’s basketball got what it wanted.
After defeating Purdue on Sunday in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, IU improved its record to 8-10 in the Big Ten, good enough for 11th place in the conference standings.
IU then needed Minnesota to beat Michigan State and Iowa to beat Northwestern for it to be able to move into 10th place and avoid playing Wednesday of the Big Ten Tournament.
“We didn’t really want to play on the first day because it’s hard to win the tournament playing all four days,” sophomore guard Bendu Yeaney said.
The Gophers and Hawkeyes took care of business, giving the Hoosiers their wish. Now, IU has a date with Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Here are three things to know about this matchup.
1. IU is seeking revenge.
On Feb. 6 in Bloomington, the Hoosiers suffered a 65-61 loss to the Gophers.
IU got off to a slow start in the game, trailing 16-8 at the end of the first quarter, and shot 4-of-17 from the field.
Despite the efforts from Yeaney, 12 points, and sophomore guard Jaelynn Penn, 18 points, IU could never recover from the slow start.
The game took a turn in the third quarter when junior guard Ali Patberg went down and dislocated her shoulder. She had to leave the game and never returned, only playing 24 minutes.
"There's a lot of different dynamics in that game," IU Coach Teri Moren said. "Our kids are looking forward to another opportunity to play Minnesota with our full roster. A healthy Ali Patberg will certainly help. That's the only game we're worried about right now.
The loss was the first of a four-game losing stretch in which Patberg missed each game. Now Patberg is back, and IU is fresh off a win against Purdue. The Hoosiers would want nothing more than to play the Gophers at full strength for a full 40 minutes.
2. Minnesota's Kenisha Bell and Destiny Pitts present problems for IU.
A majority of Minnesota’s offense comes from the back court.
Senior guard Kenisha Bell leads this Gopher team with 18.8 points per game. Per Big Ten coaches, Bell was one of three unanimous selections for the All-Big Ten First Team. In the first game against IU, Bell scored 22 points while shooting just 24 percent from the field, but she got to the free-throw line 16 times and made 11 shots from there.
“You're not going to slow her down," Moren said. "You're not going to keep her from scoring. You just try to make every shot that she takes difficult. She's really great in the open floor, so our transition defense is going to be important."
Sophomore guard Destiny Pitts joins Bell in the back court to give the Gophers a high-scoring threat from behind the 3-point line. Pitts joined Bell on the All-Big Ten First Team voted on by the media, and scored 17 points against IU earlier this year.
Pitts’ 72 3-pointers made this season are 50 more than anyone else on her team, and 23 more than anyone on IU’s team, which is Penn with 49.
“We've got to do a much better job collectively, I think, at understanding personnel a little bit better, tendencies and what these kids are capable of," Moren said. "Even complimentary pieces around Bell and Pitts."
3. No matter who wins, a tough task lies ahead.
IU, 19-11 and 8-10, is the No. 10 seed and Minnesota, 20-9 and 9-9, is the No. 7 seed. The winner of that game will play No. 2-seeded Iowa on Friday at 6:30 at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
The Hawkeyes finished the season ranked No. 10 in the nation and had an overall record of 23-6, going 14-4 in conference play.
Iowa played Minnesota on the road on Jan. 14 and won 81-63.
When the Hawkeyes played the Hoosiers, however, they suffered a 75-73 defeat in Assembly Hall. It was a win that revitalized IU’s season after losing four consecutive games and put the once-ranked No. 25 IU team back on the map in terms of NCAA Tournament talk.
If IU were to win against Minnesota, then pull off the upset on Iowa for a second time this season, it would more than likely secure the team a spot in the field of 68.
"This is a new season," Moren said. "As we've said, there's no numbers in front of any of the teams. We have to start off hot and hopefully allow some momentum to carry us throughout this tournament."
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