No. 13 IU women’s basketball was unable to replicate its lights-out shooting performance from its season-opening win last week over Eastern Kentucky University, but the Hoosiers made up for it with a stellar display of defense Thursday against Samford University.
No, IU didn’t score 100 points this time. The Hoosiers were far from having the same type of offensive rhythm and struggled to shoot the ball consistently, often needing to work late into the shot clock to find open looks. IU’s defense, however, was sharp as the Hoosiers played to their strengths in the 71-26 win.
“A really solid win, we knew we were going to have to come out and guard hard,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “Only holding them to 26 points is fantastic.”
Moren gave credit in particular to junior forward Aleksa Gulbe and senior guard Jaelynn Penn for locking down Samford’s top offensive threats.
With sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes on the bench early with foul trouble, Gulbe helped neutralize the Bulldog forwards, constantly affecting their shots near the basket. Penn was tasked with guarding Samford’s leading scorer, senior guard Shauntai Battle, who was limited to 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
“I thought (Gulbe) was unbelievable on Armstrong tonight, just did an incredible job of making everything difficult for her.” Moren said. “I thought (Penn) did an outstanding job on Battle as well. She watched film on that kid and she’s been dynamic on all three levels.”
The Bulldogs started each of the first two quarters strong before the Hoosiers responded with air-tight defense, allowing for a pair of decisive stretches where they could play to their offensive standard.
Samford scored the game’s first points on an easy layup off the opening tip, then IU shut them down for almost nine minutes, going on a 14-0 run. Similarly in the second quarter, the Bulldogs chipped away at the deficit with a quick layup and free throw before the Hoosiers closed out the half on an 18-0 run.
IU was not only quick to get back on defense, but the Hoosiers were incredibly active and persistent once they got there. Multiple players and hands swarmed to the paint whenever the Bulldogs tried to feed the ball inside, while also managing to take away Samford’s passing lanes and close out on their shooters near the perimeter.
“Our defense was awesome,” senior guard Ali Patberg said. “We’re going to have off nights offensively but if we can rely on our defense, that’s going to be huge.”
Twenty-six points is tied for the fewest allowed by a Hoosier team since a 62-25 win during the 1973-74 season, and the fewest ever during Moren’s tenure as head coach.
IU’s offense will need to return to its opening-night form with a tough game on the road Sunday against No. 11 University of Kentucky looming, but it's defense seems ready for the challenge.
“On a night that your shot’s not falling, we’re still very much blue-collar and we go back to what has gotten us this far,” Moren said. “That’s just being sound defensively and guarding hard and making it difficult on the other team.”