After spending nearly three weeks between Florida and the Virgin Islands, No. 14 IU women’s basketball is ready to make their return to Bloomington this Saturday.
The extended road trip was the first time away from home for the Hoosiers this season, and they passed their initial test with ease.
IU went a combined 4-1, defeating No. 5 University of South Carolina and Washington State University in the Paradise Jam, as well as No. 21 University of Miami and the University of Florida on the road.
IU’s only loss was to No. 2 Baylor University at the Paradise Jam, where IU was within three points of the reigning national champs with four minutes to go.
The Hoosiers have earned the No.14 spot in the AP poll and now they return home to defend the best ranking in program history.
Here are three things to know ahead of Saturday’s showdown against the University of North Florida.
Getting back to 100%
IU came out of its road trip successful, but also a little banged up.
The biggest loss for IU was sophomore guard Grace Berger, who went out with an injury at halftime against Washington State.
Berger was leading the team in scoring at almost 15 points per game. The offense took a noticeable hit against Miami, scoring a season low 58 points.
While Berger might not be back for the game against North Florida, IU can expect even more contribution from sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe.
Gulbe returned to action Wednesday against Miami, scoring 10 points in limited minutes off the bench after returning from an ankle injury that had kept her out against Washington State.
IU will have to rely on depth and balanced scoring to step up in the meantime, as Berger and Gulbe return to full strength.
Assessing the Ospreys
This will be the third time the Hoosiers and Ospreys have ever faced off. The Hoosiers lead the all time series 2-0 with wins last season and 2005.
Both wins were by 20 plus points and last years win featured a dominant performance by then-sophomore guard Ali Patberg as she scored 20 points to go along with 13 rebounds and six assists.
The Ospreys were picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic Sun conference this season. Their two games against power-5 opponents ended in blowouts, losing to Wisconsin 75-62 to start the year and the Hurricanes on Nov. 13, 78-55.
Expect an energized IU to come out and feed off the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall energy, putting this game away quickly.
Penn is mightier than the slump
With Berger out, one of the most encouraging things the Hoosiers saw Wednesday night was the reemergence of junior guard Jaelynn Penn.
Penn had been mired in a shooting slump, but snapped out of it against Miami.
She scored a team high 17 points, including a 16-point second half. More importantly, she shot 2-4 from three and 4-10 from the field.
If the streaky Penn can reduplicate that effort against North Florida, then IU’s offense will be able to get by for another game without Berger on the floor.
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