After an 11-day gap from games, nobody is perfect in their first game back on the floor. Occasional missed shots and miscommunication tend to occur with a midseason gap like the one IU experienced after its matchup with Butler was canceled due to COVID-19.
The Hoosiers’ especially showed rust from 3-point territory as they shot 2-27 from beyond the arc in IU’s 66-58 loss against the Tennessee Volunteers Thursday afternoon. The majority of the looks were fairly open, but IU never settled into an offensive rhythm all game.
While refusing to accept rust as an excuse , head coach Teri Moren felt like the team looked flat from the start.
“We looked like a team who has had eleven days off and we had no rhythm, no real pace to the game,” Moren said. “I thought we looked like we were sort of in cement from the jump.”
The slow start Moren was talking about included shooting 0-11 from 3-point range to start the game. The team couldn’t buy a bucket early on, and Moren believed that to be a psychological factor for her players throughout the game.
“In the first half when they weren’t going down, mentally I thought that made us hesitate a little more and that can’t be the case,” Moren said. “You have to believe the next one is going in.”
Senior guard Jaelynn Penn, a usual contributor from 3-point range, was 0-7 on the day from deep. Last year, she led the team with 39 made threes but has yet to consistently find her rhythm this season.
“It’s frustrating because we know we shoot better,” Penn said. “Me being 0 for 7 is frustrating because I know I can shoot better individually.”
Even though she struggled shooting the ball, Penn had a positive impact in other facets of the game. She totaled 10 rebounds and five steals, including two at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth that led to transition layups which cut Tennessee's lead to one possession.
Poor shooting from the outside has become a trend in IU’s first four games this season. Coming into Thursday’s loss against Tennessee, IU was 30% from beyond the arc which is 13th out of 14 in the Big Ten.
In their two losses this season, the Hoosiers have shot below that 30% mark from deep. Tight defense has kept them competitive in both games, but a veteran team like Indiana needs to be hitting open looks to win against tough opponents.
Now, there is reason to believe the cold shooting from the floor will disappear.
Along with all other transfers, the NCAA granted immediate eligibility for guard Nicole Cardaño-Hillary. She is the all-time leading scorer for George Mason University and as she racks up experience in IU’s system, she should become a reliable offensive threat off the bench.
“Nicole’s going to be fine. She’s a competitor, she’s tough, she just has to get her feet wet,” Moren said on Cardaño-Hillary after her Hoosier debut Thursday.
Also, knock on wood, but the Hoosiers should not have to wait 11 days to avenge any more losses and should have a consistent, two-game a week schedule moving forward.
Either way, the 3-point percentage must increase if the Hoosiers plan on reaching the top of the Big Ten as the coaches predicted in the preseason. Because of her players' work ethic, Moren believes their luck will change.
“Sooner or later, we’re going to find the bottom of the net because of the work we put in,” Moren said.
The Hoosiers will have a chance to rebound from this loss Sunday afternoon as they open Big Ten play against Nebraska.