Most people grimace when their body lands on the hardwood floor at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Senior forward Brenna Wise is not like most people.
Following a set of easy points given up in the paint, No. 24 IU women’s basketball turned the ball over, sending Wise alone down the red sideline. The forward got in position, took the charge, and with it, the momentum of the first quarter and the game.
“It says a lot that Brenna’s willing to step in front and sacrifice her body like that,” sophomore guard Grace Berger said. “We’re just all for each other, willing to help each other out. We just have that good chemistry.”
IU defeated Mount St. Mary’s University 75-52 Thursday in its home opener. Although the program got off to a slow start, it got physical and began knocking down its shots.
IU took half of the first quarter to adjust to Mount St. Mary’s high press. Its guards were getting trapped at the halfcourt line, and the bigs were not positioning for rebounds or defending the paint.
Once the Hoosier guards got free from high screens, the ball went flying around the court. The Hoosiers’ front court also shut down the Mountaineer forwards, cutting the team’s shooting percentage from the high 80's to 53.3%.
Junior guard Ali Patberg led the floor with three assists in the first quarter and seven on the night. She found Wise cutting in for layups, sophomore guard Grace Berger for threes and freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes in the low post.
Berger put up a team-high 24 points with seven rebounds and four steals. She attacked the paint with floating jumpers, drained shots from the perimeter and took advantage of second half opportunities created by her teammates.
According to Moren, the player who averaged 5.5 points per game a season ago is not the same athlete wearing No. 34 this year.
“She really spent a lot of time this summer on her game and three point shot,” Moren said. “She realized that in order for our team to get better she had to get better in certain areas.”
From the second quarter onward, the game was all IU.
IU shot 66.7% from the floor in the second quarter, beginning the quarter on a 16-0 run. It outscored Mount St. Mary’s in the paint 24-16 while holding it to 20% shooting.
With a few minutes left in the second quarter, Holmes swatted away a reverse layup from junior guard Kayla Agentowicz and launched the ball up the court for a Berger bucket.
Holmes was a brick wall on the low block, posting easy lefty hooks and stopping all traffic from the Mountaineers who tried to reach the cylinder.
The freshman forward had 11 first-half points with four rebounds to her name as well. Holmes would finish Thursday’s contest with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Her presence down low lifted IU to a 50-26 halftime lead.
“You’re not a Gatorade player of the year in the state of Maine and scored as many points as she scored by not being able to score the ball,” Moren said. “The best is still to come for her.”
A second half of shooting woes kept the Mountaineers close in the third quarter. The Hoosiers shot 27.8% with just one of six shots falling from beyond the arc.
“We were sluggish and slow out of the gates,” Moren said. “We had too many turnovers and couldn’t get any rhythm and at times. Our shot selection was not what it needed to be.”
Alternatively, Mount St. Mary’s shot 50% from the floor and saw high production from freshman guard Aryna Taylor. The freshman finished the night with 15 points alongside eight rebounds and five steals.
Despite a half of minimal production, IU kept its lead through the closing quarters and now sits 1-0 heading into Sunday.
“Great teams don’t lack anything in intensity from quarter or half to half,” Moren said. “That’s where we got to grow, and that’s the conversations that we got to continue to keep and have with our group.”