Shutting down guards and utilizing its height advantage are the two most important ingredients for No. 12 IU women’s basketball against Butler University on Wednesday.
IU defeated the University of North Florida 72-45 in its return to Bloomington on Saturday. The team’s turnovers, however, hindered its offense from producing more.
The Hoosiers had nine turnovers coming from offensive fouls in the paint. Poor passing decisions also got the team in early trouble. IU scored just 11 points as a result of undisciplined ball movement.
If IU does not exercise control in its passing and awareness below the basket, it could come back to haunt them in Indianapolis.
A player who could cause trouble for the Hoosiers is senior guard Kristen Spolyar.
Spolyar’s ability to cut off passes around the perimeter and prevent the Hoosiers from reaching the post is a weapon the Bulldogs will use to protect its 5-0 home record. She is one of the team leaders in steals and also averages the most points per game with 18.6 on 47% shooting.
Along with Spolyar, junior guard Parker Genesis specializes in knocking down the three with a shooting percentage of 54%. Genesis can score at will on defenders, draining her threes and finding options such as Spolyar or senior forward Katherine Strong near the basket.
Defense among the guards will likely be a major focus for IU.
“We’re a program that hangs its head on the defensive end,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “That’s our identity, and that’s what our kids believe.”
Outside of Strong, Butler does not see much production from its bigs. This exposes an advantage for IU on both ends of the floor.
Butler’s biggest weakness against this IU team is its lack of height.
The Hoosiers must take advantage of sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe and freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes to rebound and create second-chance opportunities. Dominating the offensive boards could break the Bulldogs’ home winning streak.
Gulbe is still finding her rhythm since returning from her ankle injury. She’s seen limited minutes as Moren eases her back into full health. Her presence down low in however many minutes she plays will still provide the Hoosiers with an edge.
Similarly, Holmes contributed 10 points and six rebounds in just 18 minutes of action off the bench against UNF. Her post hooks and maneuvering for reverse layups put her in perfect positions to score and keep IU ahead.
Other key players for the Hoosiers are senior forward Brenna Wise and junior guard Jaelynn Penn. In the absence of team scoring leader and sophomore guard Grace Berger against UNF, it was Wise who stepped up on the offensive front.
Wise put up 22 points on 78% shooting from the floor. Her efforts on and off the ball freed her teammates for open shots and facilitated ball movement around the perimeter.
Penn put up 14 points in IU’s home return and continues to grow in her confidence from midrange. The Kentucky native’s 3-point shots aren’t falling, but neither are IU’s.
Against UNF, IU shot 5-14 from behind the arc, a slight improvement from its 5-17 performance against the University of Miami last week.
Penn’s contributions, along with those of Holmes, Wise and junior guard Ali Patberg, will be essential if Berger sits Wednesday out. This, however, may not be the case.
“I would anticipate seeing her back in Indianapolis,” Moren said. “She’s our leading scorer, and you see how superior she is with her ball handling, her ability to pass and make plays.”
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