Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: Where No. 20 Indiana stands with 2020 in the rearview mirror

Freshman Kiandra Browne holds the ball after falling to the ground Dec. 20 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Browne had a double-double in the victory over Nebraska, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Freshman Kiandra Browne holds the ball after falling to the ground Dec. 20 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Browne had a double-double in the victory over Nebraska, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

After an up and down non-conference slate, the IU women’s basketball team has entered a rhythm heading into 2021.

The Hoosiers have won three straight games and are 3-0 in Big Ten play for the third consecutive season. In each game, IU has won by 20 points or more – a combination of them playing well and their opponents being toward the bottom of the conference. Either way, the quick start was necessary after letting two games slip against the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee.

“There’s no easy games in the Big Ten,” sophomore forward Mackenzie Holmes said. “Every game is a battle so it’s important to get out to a good start.

IU's great play these last three games starts with energy from the opening tip, and IU has provided that in each conference game. The Hoosiers' upbeat attitude is infectious when they are playing well, and the team visibly has each other’s back when they go through a slump.

Offensively, IU has a plethora of options to choose from. Holmes leads the scoring column by averaging 18 points per game along with 5 rebounds per contest in conference play.

She’s effective on the block in half-court offense, but her mobility in transition is what sticks out to head coach Teri Moren.

“It’s so nice to have a big that is committed to running the floor the way she is with her touch around the rim,” Moren said. “We know that she’s really good – right hand, left hand, it doesn’t matter.”

Junior forward Aleksa Gulbe has been equally efficient, providing the Hoosiers with two valuable post presences. When the shots don’t fall from the outside, it’s nice to have options underneath.

The 3-point shooting has increased exponentially since IU has begun its Big Ten slate. They are shooting 35% from deep in conference play, compared to the combined 13% in their two losses.

Senior guard Jaelynn Penn once again leads in that category with four makes in the last three games, and transfer Nicole Cardaño-Hillary added three in Thursday’s game against Illinois.

“That’s why we recruited Nicole,” Moren said. “We knew that she’s a tremendous offensive player. It’s a bonus when she comes off the bench and she guards like we want to and then hits open shots.”

Since the NCAA granted all transfers eligibility earlier in December, Cardaño-Hillary joins a second unit that has been relatively silent earlier this season. Recently, the extended minutes have given them the confidence needed to impact Big Ten matches.

“As I’ve continued to say, the guys that we bring off the bench need to impact the game,” Moren said. “Where it starts is on the defensive side of the ball first, but what they can give us offensively will be an added bonus for us.”

Thankfully, it comes right before their schedule becomes even tougher, as IU will hit the road for a matchup on Monday against No. 14 Maryland followed by Penn State on Thursday.

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