The long-awaited start of the 2019-20 campaign for IU women’s basketball team is finally here.
The Hoosiers are ranked 24th in the country entering the season, just the second preseason Top 25 appearance in program history.
Meanwhile, star junior guard Ali Patberg finds herself on numerous preseason award watch lists, with more and more being added each day it seems. Patberg leads a deep and experienced team that is hoping to build off a second-round exit from the NCAA tournament last season.
IU begins its quest for another tournament berth Thursday when it plays the Mount St. Mary’s University Mountaineers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Here are three things to know ahead of opening night.
Young stars need to shine immediately.
The Hoosiers played their lone exhibition game against McKendree University last Sunday and won in a 109-43 romping.
Seven different players scored in double figures, most notably sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe, who led all scorers with 20 points. Also, sophomore guard Grace Berger tallied 14 points.
Both Hoosier sophomores were in the starting lineup and will most likely remain there while junior guard Bendu Yeaney recovers from an Achilles injury and head coach Teri Moren determines former center Kym Royster’s replacement at the five.
If they can be consistent contributors from the starting lineup, it will alleviate some of the burden off Patberg, who is returning to form after missing significant time due to injury last season, and junior guard Jaelynn Penn, who is dealing with a bout of plantar fasciitis.
Send in the mob.
Another key for the Hoosiers as they battle the early season injury bug will be the depth of their bench. Thirteen players made an appearance in the exhibition with eight off the bench, and there are a few key players from that group who will be called upon consistently.
Junior guard Keyanna Warthen came off the bench tallying 15 points in 28 minutes, and freshman forward Jorie Allen added 15 points in 22 minutes, while shooting an impressive 60% from the field.
Redshirt freshman Chanel Wilson also joined the party with nine points in her first game as a Hoosier.
All three will be instrumental for Moren and the Hoosiers as they do battle with ranked opponents like No. 2 Baylor University and No. 8 University South Carolina during early season tournaments.
With the addition of Berger or Gulbe to the second unit once Yeaney returns around January, the Hoosiers’ reserves will be among the most formidable in the Big Ten.
Ain’t no Mountain(eer) high enough.
Mount St. Mary’s has already played its first official game this season, losing to 13th-ranked University of Kentucky 67-44 on Tuesday.
While the final score might not indicate a close game, the Mountaineers only trailed the Wildcats by six at halftime. And compared to the Hoosiers margin of victory over the Bearcats, it was a much tighter game defensively.
IU will have to avoid early season trap games against theoretically lesser opponents before heading into games against Power Five teams. Mount St. Mary’s has already proven it can hang with a ranked opponent.
The Hoosiers must come out and set the tone that they aren’t messing around this season.